My friend Jenny took this picture just a few days ago, when she posted it to Facebook, she added the scripture. I could say so much about what this picture means to me, and how it has been a reflection of the last year.
Two years ago, the Lord brought these three hands together in only such as way as He can. I don’t live in the same city as these ladies, not even in the same county, or even the neighboring county. I didn’t share any mutual friends with them (at the time). But through a ministry connection, this friendship was born.
We have served alongside in ministry together, as Jenny and Aimee have both spoken at Women’s Ministry Council meetings. We even jumped into the fray, and tacked a big topic… Diversity and Unity in the church. We were cautious, nervous, maybe even a little afraid. But the burden to push forward could not be pushed away. We know that the Lord isn’t done with us in that capacity either, He is working things out and paving a way for a larger conversation.
Outside of the diversity our skin color and life experiences bring to the table, there is a commitment to God that intertwines our hearts together. There is also something there which isn’t as easy to see… honesty. You can’t have a conversation about race in the church, race in the community, etc without baring your souls to one another. Being open about what you didn’t understand, having your heart broken over the experiences that your friends have lived through. But, that isn’t the only honesty between us.
We have hard conversations. We speak truth to each other. We have conversations that are tense. However, we choose to push through the awkwardness because our friendship and commitment to serving together is so much more important. Not even two weeks before this picture was taken, Jenny and I had a really hard conversation. Only speaking for myself, I walked away from that conversation a bit wounded and confused. But, Jenny knew this. Instead of burying my feelings, in the course of the conversation I told her “this hurts a little”.
In the days after, I needed to get my head straight. Who is Jenny? She is my friend, not my enemy. Why was I feeling hurt? Did I even need to be hurt? The more I thought about these questions and more, I could only land on what I know of Jenny. What I know of her is that she is a woman who pursues Christ, and she is responsible for the calling the Lord put on her life. I know that she is wise, trustworthy, and kind. I know that she is honest, direct, and she has good intentions. She is a Kingdom server, loyal, and just like the rest of us she is not perfect.
The more I pondered about the Jenny I knew, my heart felt less of a sting. I recognized that I really had no reason to feel hurt.
There are three things that I have taken away from this, that I am holding onto as I venture in the 40s.
- It is far better to recognize the hurt in the moment, than to stuff it and let it stew. It is not only healthier for me, but it is good for the other person to know as well. Should there be actual fault, a person can not apologize for something they are unaware of. If there is no fault, it allows the person to know that you are in a tender place and may need some space to heal.
- I need to surround myself with people whom I can be this honest with. I knew I could be honest with Jenny. Reflecting on my past, I can think of people who were in my inner circle and I couldn’t be that honest with. This tells me that I either didn’t really know them in the first place, or that I knew and disregarded the fact that they were not people I could be honest with for the sake of having a friend. Usually these are the people who will be direct and honest with you about your sins, but Lord help us all if anyone were to actually call them out.
- I need to evaluate who is in my circle, it may be time to prune… create boundaries. I want the friendships that I have, moving forward, to be built on good foundation. It is quality over quantity. Reciprocal relationships where we are each a blessing to each other, iron sharpening iron. I want to walk away from phone calls, lunch dates, ministry work, etc feeling joy, peace, and even a belly hurt from laughter. I can no longer afford to walk away and feel emotionally exhausted, beat up, pressed down, and overwhelmed.
There is a woman that I have been friends with for a very long time, and I thought it was a healthy friendship. Now, I am not quite so sure. I never set boundaries, nor stood up for myself in our friendship. She has a very strong personality and frankly, I am intimidated by her at times. I thought I could overlook that strong personality, especially since I have one myself. However, in the last few days I have realized that while I enjoy most of our time together, it’s not always pleasant.
I’m going to take a heavy dose of blame here because I didn’t handle things well from the start. I didn’t set boundaries, and the friendship became overwhelming. Instead of sitting her down and being honest, I just imposed distance. In the moments where she was overstepping her bounds, I didn’t speak up and tell her that she needed to back down. Many years later, that resulted in a boundary-less friendship.
This came to a head recently, and when I recount our last interaction and how I felt when I left, I wondered if this friendship was really a blessing? Not only was I asking if she was the the type of friend I needed… but also the reverse. Am I the right friend for her? Am I a blessing to her? Is this a friendship that is salvageable? Can we put in boundaries, or is it too late?
What to do with this revelation?
Before I do anything, I must take this to the throne. As humans we are just fallible. It is amazing what we can justify to keep in our lives, or to let go. We allow the opinions of others to influence us. We can have to soft of a heart, or a deep desire to be liked. We can fear hurting even those who hurt us.
What does God’s Word say about what our relationships should look like? What kind of character should we be looking for in those we pull into our inner circle? Who should we avoid?
This doesn’t mean we isolate ourselves from the world at large, we can’t fulfill The Great Commission doing that. I’m talking specifically about that inner circle, the closest friends, those we want to rely on for wise counsel and solid truth. The ones we are going to give permission to speak into our lives.
I am going to trust the One who orders my steps.