God has a pattern of working in cycles: seasons, the moon, insects, cell reproduction and many more such examples. Hence our lives also have a pattern of working in cycles. Which means nothing lasts forever. Change is constant. (Which is really an ironic sentence.)
This is so true when it comes to our friendships.
Our friendships feel giddy like spring, make memories like summer, have the tenacity of fall, and sometimes experience the death of winter.
It is rare to have 40-year friendships, like I’ve had the grateful privilege of in my life. These friendships are the gifts who define me.
Even with lifetime friends there is always a next time in friendships. There is always a next season. When I come to understand this better, I can better embrace the vulnerability of friendship and value the season we are in.
When friendships run through their seasons, the ending hurts. As it should. That person is walking away with a vulnerable piece of you. That person knows you, and some secrets too. This friend was your safe person who knows your vulnerable stuff. There was an understanding that you would go the distance and this hurts.
The reason for the ending could be one of a million reasons. One of you could have moved; you changed churches; your children entered a different stage of life; you changed jobs. Yet because this is such a vulnerable loss, it feels like you were rejected. The pain lies to you that you did something wrong or that something is wrong with you. Pain lies and hides the truth that this friendship was a season.
This loss still hurts. This is a worthy loss. The loss you are feeling is real and honorable. It is worthy of proper grief.
Maybe instead of feeling proper grief you have minimized this loss by excusing the pain as just a friendship loss? So you moved on too quickly. You got “over it.” You rebounded with your new group of friends. You ignored the pain of the loss. You redefined the importance of that friendship. (Please don’t do this.)
Isn’t the process of grief to honor someone because she was so loved and so valued? My grief over broken loss is worth every minute of the great love we share, now shared. Grief honors this friendship that is now over.
Without recognizing that you are going through the process of grief you interrupt your healing and you minimize the value that this friendship had on the formation of you. This was not just a friendship.
This person is a part of your history; is a part of your formation; shares your memories; and maybe even carried your pain when you were too hurt.
She is now gone but she is still a part of you. This does hurt. This is worth grieving.
Friendships are very important.
I grew up having very few friends. My year-younger sister had loads of friends. Too often my friends were her friends but I was only receiving the leftover attention. How I desired to have a best friend.
I find it ironic that now in my later years I have multiple friends whom I met in 1977, 1981, 1983, 1984, and 1985. These people are my people supporting me through this wild life God has led me on. (My sister also has friendships dating this far back and many more friends still. It still is what it is.)
In all of these very lengthy friendships of mine we’ve had seasons. Sometimes our lives synced up for living everyday life together. Sometimes there were seasons we didn’t talk at all because space was needed. We’ve had everything else in between.
Even when we were in conflict, I knew I could make the phone call asking for help. Sure enough, our seasoned friendship was the comfort I needed to get through. I say “sure enough” on purpose. I was sure she would be there for me.
Friends like this are so beautiful in their brilliant colors. As the life-giving parts of the tree are drawn inward to prepare for winter so it is as my life grows and changes. These are my people. These people hold my story.
Friendships are very important.
I need to be in a vulnerable relationship with somebody. I need encouragement. I need cheering on. I need to be told that I made the right choice. But here’s the thing. Not just anyone can tell me that. For it to sink into my calloused heart it has to come from people who know that calloused heart. This knowing comes from my feeling safe enough to be vulnerable.
These vulnerable relationships for me often include more than one person. I trust certain people which then allows me to lead the rest of my life with a bigger and braver faith.
Your perfect best friend may actually be the combination of five of your friends. Especially as your life grows. Because your life is now so much bigger than that 5th grade classroom.
Who should these five friends be? The options are wide because your life is wide. One may come from work. One may come from your small group at church. One may be a cousin. It is in this wide combination that you will figure out how surrounded you are by friendship, love, and support. This combination of friends from the many areas of your life is enough to support you, giggle with you, be wise with you, and carry you when life becomes too much.
I do have some opinionated wisdom about who some of these five friends should be. I think one friend should be someone who is older than you. Find that sassy, wise (in both Biblical wisdom and life wisdom), and beautiful older person who you can learn from. The one who also recognizes you and will speak into your life words of mercy and truth.
Find another friend who is younger than you. Maybe you are not that wise friend yet (though you may be sassy!). But you do have some wisdom to contribute and you are able to recognize what God is growing in this younger friend. You do have words of mercy and truth to share.
I also know I am very capable of being an imperfect friend. I know me. I need to remember that when I feel hurt by my imperfect friend.
I expect friendships to bring me joy which means I willingly accept the risk that I am going to be hurt. Joy and pain are perfectly matched together and I get to have both. The risk is worth it to meet beautiful people who may become important people in my life.
I have qualities who I look for in friends. Someone who inspires me. Someone I believe I can respect. Someone who will respect my boundaries. Someone who does not need me to complete her. Someone who I trust will not be afraid of my pain.
There are givers and takers in springtime friendships. Givers ask to earn trust and allow the time needed for that trust to be earned. Takers will demand your trust as a condition of their friendship. The trust is for their benefit, not yours. You must vulnerably try to figure out who is a giver or taker.
Be wary of the love bomber friend. You will discern early that something is off with this new friend as you also will love the attention you are receiving. Until you realize that this love bomber friend is really trying to control you to avoid her vulnerability.
Love bomber friends expect you to return this same attention back, whether you are capable or not. Whether you realize it or not. When the love bomb is not returned, the love bomber friend is disappointed, sad, and very likely angry because you have unknowingly repeated back to her the small story she is telling herself–that she is not worthy of love. All because in the navigation of springtime friendships you didn’t measure up to a mark you never knew about.
Failure happens often in the making of springtime friendships. This means I must vulnerably and awkwardly try to make friends. I don’t know which part I hate more.
This is also the beginning of friendships. Friends who will make memories with me and be a part of my history and part of my formation. I wrote in my book,
“My life is a story of getting my heart smashed and the many times I have chosen to get up.
“I have never gotten up alone. There have always been people beside me–sometimes carrying me–until I’m able to be up again.”
These people who are not afraid of my pain are the faith holders of my life. Who I am is attributed to them.
I had to go through the vulnerable and awkward to become friends with them. So worth it.
Thank you, my people. Thank you for all of these beautiful seasons.