Thursday, September 20, 2012
Next Monday I'll be talking at MOPS about friendship - being a good friend, having meaningful friendships.
It's funny, because as an introvert, being good at friendship isn't something that comes naturally. It's something that God has had to be teaching me, showing me, tapping me on the shoulder and saying, "Hey, you can't just hole up in your office and ignore the world. I've put too many incredible, wonderful people in your life for you to ignore!" So, this week, I'm thinking about friendship. And I'm thinking about what really makes a good friend.
Kindness, yes. Loyalty, yes. Someone that helps you to become more like Christ, believe more, trust more, grow deeper in him. Someone you enjoy being with. Someone who helps you laugh. Someone who is there for you when you need her.
Someone who is honest.
Ouch. Am I that kind of friend?
Now don't get me wrong, I am 100% committed to truth. Jesus says, "The truth will set you free," and I believe him. I live by that ... mostly.
But this week, as I'm thinking and preparing and pondering and evaluating my own weaknesses, I see that friendship means vulnerability. And vulnerability means means letting friends know how I'm really doing. It means communicating the truth about me.
It means letting go of "I'm fine" and letting others in to my struggles. Because I think that's really the key to good friendships. In John 15:15 Jesus says, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." To Jesus, being a friend means communicating. It means opening up. It means sharing your heart.
I'm reminded of this story that I posted last year. God taught me this lesson then, and he's reminding me now. I don't want to be found dead at the bottom of the cage. Instead, I want to tell the truth ... and be a good friend.
It happened like this:
It was a big, fat lie. I smiled as I said it. And what’s worse, I told it in the church foyer.
A friend touched my shoulder. “How’re you doing?”
She nodded and made her way into the sanctuary.
Fine. I’m doing fine. I’ve told that lie a hundred times, maybe a thousand. But it was never bigger than that morning. Two days before I’d found out that the baby I was carrying had died. And in two days more I was scheduled for surgery to remove the empty egg sac that was still in me. So, I was not fine. Not at all.
I wouldn’t have thought twice about my lie except when I came home that day I found one of my lovebirds dead at the bottom of the cage. I trembled as I backed away and called to my husband. “Bryan, can you come in here?”
He walked over and stared at the bird. “What happened?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I dunno. It looked fine yesterday.”
“How did it go from fine to dead in a day?” Bryan put on a gardening glove, reached in the cage, and removed the dead bird. “Well, there’s no marks on it. Feels a little skinny though. You’d better look in that book we got on lovebirds.”
I shivered and turned away.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” I said the lie again, softer this time, quieter.
“Fine, huh?” Bryan put the dead bird in a box, then waited as I retrieved the book about lovebirds and flipped through the pages.
I read about various diseases and sick birds. Then, I stopped and looked up. “Wow, look at this.” I pointed to a paragraph in the book. “It says here that a lovebird will hide its sickness until it’s about to die. You can’t tell it’s even sick unless you weigh it twice a week.”
Bryan nodded. “It’s too bad. If we’d have known, we could have tried to do something.” He tossed the book onto the table. “Too late now, of course.”
I sank into a chair and stared at the one bird left in the cage. “If only we’d known . . .” It was then that my lie came back to me. Fine. Thanks. I was no different than that foolish lovebird. By instinct, I, too, hid my emotional and spiritual sickness. Hid it so well that no one would know I needed help.
Perhaps that’s why the Bible says, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Ephesians 4:25, NIV) I’d always thought that verse meant I shouldn’t try to manipulate others with my words. And it does mean that. But maybe it also means that I must open myself to fellow believers. I need to allow them into my life with truth and honesty. I have to be vulnerable if I am to be healed.
And if I’m not, I may find myself, one day soon, face down at the bottom of my cage.