Monday, January 20, 2014

Friends for a Season

 Growing up, I was what you might call a loner.  I struggled to make and keep friends.  I had one constant friend throughout most of my childhood, and we could not have been any closer if we'd tried.  If I wasn't at her house, she was at mine, and the lines between friendship and family for both of our families was forever blurred.  Then, we turned into teenagers, and slowly but surely, our interests began to diverge, and we both developed friendships outside of our circle of two.  Before we knew it, we were more like acquaintances.  Do I love her any less?  No!  To this day, my heart cheers when I think of her and her family.  And I will always cherish the memories we share.  Nonetheless, that inseparable closeness that we had way back when we were little girls cannot be rekindled.  Why?  Because God gave us each other for the season of childhood.  Each of us needed exactly what the other had to freely offer.  For that season.

Explaining the dissolution of a childhood friendship is fairly simple.  No hurts need to have occurred.  People simply grow up and grow apart.  But what about when you do grow up and a friendship that felt like it would be forever somehow falls apart?  How do you reconcile that confusion and heartbreak?

Like I said, true friends were a rarity for me throughout life.  I scarcely had more than one person around whom I was fully myself.  I am grateful to God that He has allowed many of those friendships to continue into my adulthood...I may only see those few girls in person a few times a year, but when we do come together, it's as if not a day has passed and the giggling and warmth picks up where we left off.  And since having a child, I've enjoyed friendships with other women of such a depth I never knew possible, those relationships being so tightly-knit around the common threads of motherhood and faith.  I've also experienced heart-wrenching break-ups with friends with whom I could never have imagined not being a part of my daily life.  Friends whose closeness exceeded anything I ever thought possible.  Friends with whom I freely shared every hurt and victory and dream and fear.  And now they're strangers.

With the exception of one of these ended relationships, I could not begin to tell you what drew us apart.  Some waned slowly; phone calls, texts, and playdates just became less and less frequent until one day, they stopped altogether.  Some were more abrupt, but even those had no edge of hostility or dislike to them.  So what happened?

Well, to quote Genesis 8:22, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”  When the Lord created everything as we know it, in His infinite wisdom, He created seasons.  Everything was created with an expiration date, including us.  And because God is forever bending and shaping our characters, it is impossible for us to remain the same.  As we experience life, we change.  As He is sowing in our hearts the lessons we need to learn in order to complete His will in our lives, He places in our paths the exact people and trials that will mold our hearts to His.  Some of these relationships are meant to stand the test of time.  Our marriages, for example.  Biblical marriage vows are far more than romantic words, they are a covenant between yourself, God, and your spouse.  And from a fruitful marriage often comes children.  The bond of parenthood is another that is not meant to be broken.  

But what about friendships?  Can those last a lifetime?  Absolutely!  And many do, especially when based upon building one another up and edifying each other in a faith in Christ Jesus.  Even still, many of our friendships in life are meant to carry us through something.  These friends teach us new things, reveal in us strengths and weaknesses of which we were unaware, and prepare in us a testimony that can be used later on in life.  To achieve that purpose, your life's pathway runs parallel with your friend's for a time.  Many times, those paths fork at some point, and each in turn coincides with another person's who needs a walking buddy.  And each of these joint jaunts will refine you into exactly who you're meant to be.  Sometimes through joy, and sometimes through agony, but you will be changed.

The most important lesson I've learned over the past few years is to accept the decline of a strong friendship without bitterness.  The first couple of times, I'm afraid I didn't let go gracefully, and hearts were hurt unnecessarily...mine and theirs.  Even when both parties involved have tried to prolong the inevitable, once the spark was gone, it was gone, and interactions felt forced and unnatural.  Clinging to such a mess is unhealthy and allows resentment and bitterness to take root.  And that ain't gonna help nobody.

So, am I saying that when a dry season occurs between yourself and a friend, you should just let everything you've built crumble and die?  Er, no.  Pray.  Ask God what His will for your friendship is.  Ask Him to show you whether this door should be closed so another can open.  Ask Him to give you the words to speak to your friend so that a bridge over the chasm can be built.  All relationships ebb and flow.  No two people will always be on the same page, even if they are in the same book.  Disagreements and differences of opinion are going to happen.  Forgiveness and grace are going to be required in great quantities.  Sacrifices will need to be made on your part when your friend is unable to fend for herself, and vice versa.  Truth is paramount, even when you know it's going to hurt.  Friendships that can survive the bumps and potholes along the path of life will stand the test of time, but you will both have battle wounds and scars to show for it down the road.  If God is urging you to knuckle down and press on, listen and obey.  If He is telling you to gracefully bow out, listen and obey.  Because if He is telling you to do something, and you try to circumvent Him, He will accomplish what He has set out to do in another way, but you're very likely to suffer much more heartbreak than if you'd heeded Him.  And if He is telling you to hold on, take heart in knowing that He will bless the both of you through and after the storm.  

In either case, relish in the fact that God loves you and that He desires your friendship.  Regardless of the number of human friendships you boast, the most important, closest relationship that you could ever have is with your Creator, and He desires to dwell inside of your heart!  He doesn't even mind the clingy type.  And He can handle every single flaw that you've got...after all, He knit you together inside your mother's womb, and knew you intimately before time began.  The more you earnestly seek Him, the closer to you He becomes.  And from that relationship, you will be eternally blessed. 

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