Friendship is an art and all healthy people work with the medium. Some are better artisans than others but — whatever the case — we are built for relationship. God operates in the Trinity. Jesus had the disciples. We are born into families. Dorothy had Toto, Tin Man, Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. It is the grand design.
So why in the last year have I had numerous conversations with so many who are really lonely? They have plenty of friends but few close confidants. They are delightful people who despite being engaging and involved with lots of causes, interests and ministries are missing something that only a deep, transparent friendship can provide.
I can write about this because I count myself in this category.
It seems I can’t beg, buy or build the kind of relationship I’m talking about. Trust me, I’ve tried! I’m not Miss Popular but people often tell me, “you know everybody!” and, I think, assume that my plate is full of “go-to” people. Quite the contrary. I long for those. On the surface we are all too busy but I suspect more truthfully we are scared. Scared to be discovered, scared to be known, scared to have the dark areas of our lives brought out in the light. I get it. Who wants to be exposed?
But, we all need at least one or two friends who will “go there” with us. Like any relationship, there is not a program to follow or a book to buy that can assure success in making friends. But Ican decide to risk, make efforts to be vulnerable. It doesn’t happen in an instant, it’s a decision to journey; a first step on the yellow brick road of relationship. Jesus didn’t hang out with pretty people, engaged in cocktail party conversation and coiffed to present perfection. He risked; dug in — investing time and attention in twelve (with a special focus on three). He washed their feet, confronted their pride, shared intimate insight, and modeled compassion to the least deserving of their culture.
In the Wizard of Oz, none of the others Dorothy journeyed with were perfect — all had huge holes in their character (or should I say, in their hearts, minds, courage and identity) but they knew if they could get to the Emerald City all would be saved. Once in town, when Dorothy discovered the wizard of Oz to be merely a man behind the curtain, did she reject him? — No. She freed him from the false self he had constructed. And he went on to help her find her way home, too. Back in Kansas, Dorothy and all her friends were transformed through the experience.
I can’t put the responsibility on anyone else but I can work on myside of things and hope to draw others over as a result. With my own transparency, I can hold open the door for friends to walk through — entering into new relational depths. With a click of my ruby red slippers, I can commit to tell my story to those I’m travelling with — the good, the bad and the ugly. And along the way, I can listen to their’s. “Realness” releases and empowers. It unwraps the dirty bandages we (and others in the history of our wounded past) have bound over our shame, cleanses the wound and re-wraps it with the clean gauze of grace. When this happens as a regular, intentional part of our lives, we are healing and we are healed.
Want an adventure? Assess your friendships. Who are you connected with and why? Who would you call a “go-to” person in your life, spiritually-speaking? Who would you call a “like-minded traveller” on your journey? What are you doing to grow that relationship?