A few years ago, a friend told me about a Thank You card she had received from a girl saying that she was “grateful for their friendship in this season of her life”. My friend said she appreciated this card because it took the pressure off their friendship. To her, it meant that for that very moment, they were close friends, encouraging and inspiring one another but that it would be ok if their friendship would become less intimate when they moved into the next season.
Seasons are marked by changes. They are subdivisions of a year. Like chapters in a book. I never thought of friendship that way. I thought all friendships were supposed to last a lifetime, get stronger as the years go by. What my friend told me back then, changed me, changed my expectations in friends and our relationships, and thus changed the quality of my friendships. And, it helped me deal with the loss of a dear friend. She didn’t die. But our friendship did.
Grab a coffee or Cosmo (depending on the time of day) and get comfy…
A few years ago, a very good friend of mine broke up with me. It hurt. It hurt badly. Even today, that wound is still healing. But the scar on my heart is hardly visible and I have nothing but gratitude for the times we’ve had. No grudges. No regrets. But more importantly, I am forever grateful for the lesson I was taught. Besides lacking severe control of my tongue when I get angry, my expectations in our friendship were nearly impossible to live up to.
Back then, I often measured a friend’s love for me by the frequency of her calls or texts, how many pictures of us she would post on Facebook (sad, ey?), and if I was included in her leisurely activities. I got jealous when Mr. Thrasher and I were excluded from fun gatherings, road trips or Holiday celebrations. I was upset when things that were important to me didn’t (seem to) matter as much to my friends. I thought I’d never be asked to be someone’s bridesmaid or the godmother of their child. And why would I always have to throw my own birthday party while other friends had parties hosted for them? It certainly didn’t help that I was miles away from my old friends in Germany. Naturally, those friendships faded away and important, life-changing events weren’t shared instantly anymore. In a nutshell, I pretty much doubted every friendship – old and new, near and far.
Fictional friendships in TV shows like Friends and Grey’s Anatomy, movies like Beaches and novels like Firefly Lane, created in me an unquenchable thirst to experience the same, intense, romantic kind of closeness my favorite characters displayed on a flat screen. And it certainly didn’t help that Germans form friendships differently. Germans generally draw a strong distinction between their few friends and their many associates, co-workers, neighbors, and others. We have relationships that take time to transition from ‘acquaintances’ to ‘friends’. If they transition at all.
For Americans, friends tend to be people whom they encounter fairly frequently, and that are similar to themselves in demographics, attitude, and activities. While many other cultures value deep trust and meaning in their friendships, Americans will use the word “friend” to describe most people who have such qualities (Stout 2010). ~Wikipedia
After losing my friend, I had arrived at a crossroad. I could go one of two ways: Guard my heart by shutting people out and don’t let anyone get too close ever again (read: Become bitter and angry. And let it all out on my poor husband.). Or I could turn to God to manage my expectations, be vulnerable and humble myself about my shortcomings (read: Learn to be gracious and forgiving. And start therapy.).
A few, very good friends put on gloves and hard hats, and plowed through the dirt with me. They remained loyal through that ‘breakup’, never took sides and helped me weed out bitter roots of disappointment and rejection. They fed me with love, patience, prayer and truth.
Today, I cherish those rare, high quality friendships that have solid ways of resolving conflict, ultimately leading to stronger and healthier relationships. I need friends whose wisdom, whose willingness to say difficult things, or whose different perspectives will sharpen me.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” ~ Proverbs 27:17
Friends, who cheer you on from the sidelines, who lovingly discipline you, who forgive, over and over again. They hold your hair back when you lean over the toilet, they make you chicken soup and leave it on your porch along with flowers, they come by to help you with your toddler when you’re too sick to get out of bed, they hold you accountable when you claim you are working on your marriage, they take you to the airport in the middle of the night, they support your cause no matter what, they remember the sad and the good stuff you told them, they speak your Love Language, they hold you accountable for being a good wife, they pray – for and with you.
Lifetime friends teach you life lessons you can learn from and use as foundation for all other relationships.
A soul mate reflects back to us that which is unhealed while testifying to what is already perfect. Soul mates provide different things at different times: sometimes a safe haven from which we can branch out and explore, and sometimes challenges that bring us to our knees. ~ from The One: Discovering the Secrets of Soul Mate Love by Kathy Freston
I may not have found another cast of Friends to live life with but as long as I have a hand full of girlfriends I could call in the middle of the night with any emotional emergency, I know I am blessed.
Oh, and by the way, Mr. Thrasher and I now have a sweet, little goddaughter. God is good.