Jumping right in. In her book, So Long, Insecurity, Beth Moore asks the question, "Where on earth did we come up with the idea that we have to subtract value from ourselves in order to give credit to someone else?" I think that is a very valid question but in regards to my journey of friendship the road I took through most of my life was just the opposite; where on earth did I come up with the idea that in order to place value on myself I had to subtract it from someone else? I did NOT learn the answer to this question in High School and basically entered college and my young professional life believing that though there were people who could and did do this I needn't be one of them because I just didn't need friends. I knew that gossip and devaluing others was wrong but didn't get in that trap nearly as much because I didn't have anyone to do it with nor did I need anyone for anything.
Lisa Whelchel says in her book that she was "adept at appearing transparent without being vulnerable." That is how I survived being in relationships, bible studies, small groups and ministry without absolutely starving for friendship. I have never had a difficult time sharing where I am at spiritually, what God is teaching me, how I am flawed, where I am stuck or where I am walking in victory. I know and own my own junk (as far as I am aware of it) and have never really struggled to appear transparent but at the same time I never really sought to fill the need for others in my life.
After Lydia was born we were in a small group with 4 other couples and I can barely describe just how much we all needed each other at that time in our lives. I finally had some friends. It felt nice and we had so much fun. For the first time in my life I had a couple women I could call up to go to a late movie or to the mall or just to hang out with. It was refreshing and brand new to me. I felt accepted and loved for being me and that was a great thing. I had never known that in my life regarding friendships and I couldn't get enough of it. Yet I still did not pursue much depth of need beyond the fun, laughing sharing and downright freedom of it all. I would say that I did not risk vulnerability at that point out of habit, fear and perfectionism.
Friendship is risky business and though I have always been pretty good at transparency, vulnerability is a whole other story. As a perfectionist and a control freak friendship terrifies me because I will never be able to do it perfectly. I tend to get caught in 2 different traps. 1. I choose to keep it at transparent and do not pursue vulnerability because that admits I have needs, expectations, wants and desires that may not be able to be met. 2. I risk vulnerability, inevitably screw it up and then live in regret and fear which makes me withdraw. Number 2 has most vividly shown up in family relationships because we are, for lack of a better phrase, stuck with each other. When I am vulnerable and real that means I will unintentionally (or even worse, intentionally) mess up, hurt someone and then have to move forward, learn from my mistakes and keep going. The only problem is that I don't know how to move forward. I have yet to learn how to show change because I don't choose to be vulnerable or risk again for fear of messing up again.
So, where does that leave me on my journey? Still learning and moving forward. About a year and a half ago I took a relational risk by attending a small group women's Bible study at my church about being in accountability relationships. I was so excited about the opportunity to be in a large group of women who were interested in the same thing I so longed for, deep and meaningful relationships. The study was 4 weeks long and during that time we were asked to pray about who God might be leading us to speak with about pursuing a relationship with. In my desperation for friendship at that point I felt that I could hit it off with just about any woman there and so when it ended I just kinda waited. To say I wasn't crushed when not a single person called or contacted me would be a lie. I knew there were other women there who didn't know many people and with whom I felt some connection with but still, nothing. I chose not to let that stop me and I contacted the person God had most laid on my heart only to find she was meeting with someone else. I am sure I got off the phone, had a good cry and resolved to retreat back into my shell and not risk anything again. In God's grace, it eventually worked out and God really has purposed for us to meet regularly and I am learning sooooo much from this relationship and am so glad that I took what felt like such a huge risk.
I decided once again in January of this year to take further relational risks and approach a few people about my need for relationships. Some have been reciprocated, some have not. However, I have discovered this so far in my adult relationships. Not all relationships are the same. Over the past 5 years I have had relationships that have a natural chemistry, mutual benefit and enrich all aspects of my life. These kind of relationships will know my daily goings on and will laugh at the silliness of this thing called life. When that kind of relationship collides with the next it is even better. I also have a need for some relationships that have a different purpose, those where I know and can be known. I want to know someones heart and I want them to know mine. These type of relationships sometimes take more effort because, though I don't believe they are always forced, they may not be as natural or fun. They are harder to carve out precious time for but I believe necessary to do so. I now recognize my desire to know the people that my husband and I minister with at a deeper level. I desire to have them know my heart, my passions, my hopes and dreams and my gifts, not so that we can be best friends and hang out all the time but so that we can better serve God, our church and our community together. Friendship for me is about sharing vision and vulnerability together and it is the word "together" that has taken me 30 years to recognize.
Chances are that if you have read this far you are either already part of my journey or I really want you to be. I want to know you and I want to be known. There may not be much hope for me to learn all the social skills of friendship that one learns in childhood but I believe I can learn to listen rather than talk, to offer comfort rather than spout off answers (both of which are very hard for me) to love rather than fix. I know God can do all these things and I don't want my own fear to hold me back from trying. Blessings friends!