Sunday, September 2, 2012

Friendships: On Hobbling into Eternity

I drive down the windy road, covered in darkness and flashes of light. I pass the street and I remember.

I haven't driven these roads much over the past four years, as it seems for most with our high school diplomas in hand, off we fly—all in different directions of course, without looking back. 

And then four years later, another diploma in hand you find yourself driving down that road and walking in that house and seeing that momma, a little more wrinkled and grey—you see and you smell and you breathe those moments all over again. Then you cry because of the promises unkept and the relationships lost and you swear you didn't see it coming, though you were given fair warning. 

I remember walking down this road, ten feet deep in layers of hoodies and scarfs and socks, the ones that go up to your knees, the ones that are tie-die, boasting all the colors of the rainbow. Leggings and sweatpants miles deep. Oh, and yes, I thought I was the greatest thing on earth in those socks. I remember walking and looking up, gazing at those little white lights as we wiggled our way down the curves. 

The road ahead seemed clear and narrow, lined out with the moon glimmering off the crystal white surrounding. We walked in linked arms and we knew the road would be long and hilly, we couldn't exactly see beyond the night, but we had the same vision and we held on tighter. I remember watching my breath come out into a puff of exhaustion and joy all steamed together. And I remember hiking up the hill after we flew down it, the greatness of it all, the way we all talked with our eyes and knew in our hearts we would raise babies together one day.

My hair was brown then and I laughed louder and I hugged boys without thinking and I didn't care what people thought so much. Life seemed so complicated, relationships messy but in hindsight, it was all oh so simple. 

Little sisters, ride on the simplicity of it all because one day you will blink and it will all look a little uglier, a little more complex.

Mostly, I remember being with her. I remember the others too, the ones that have since long faded into Facebook photos and random status likes over these four years. I remember her because we made it—we passed the test time and time again and I don't understand it but I don't ask because in the mountaintops and the pits of life, she has remained, arm linked in mine. 

I envy those people who just attract friends with a wink. It's not like that for me. It's a labor and a lifelong one. I think too much and try too hard. I invest my whole heart and when it breaks, my life crumbles and I cry a lot. 

I expect a lot too. I love deep and I try to be real because sometimes the mask gets too hot. 

Even tonight as I saw her but a minute, I drove down that road remembering and I walked in and I looked into her eyes and I saw the past six years and I remembered and it felt safe, even in the doubt I trust because she's earned it. The smell of her house floods my nostrils  as we sit—with moments that somehow summed up my life outside of the high school classroom all rushing in because they were most often here, here in this place where the spirit still grips my heart so tight. 

I can't decide if I should laugh or cry so I smile. I grew up with her, mostly right here in this basement where we first met and she fed me milk as I became a new creation and learned to chew solid food. I fell in love with Jesus and tried to run away a million times and she's watched it all, talked me back with her bold words more then a handful. We have to take planes to link arms now, and it happens way less then I ever thought possible, but somehow God's grace has been enough. We used to tell stories with our eyes and now we use our lips more often then not, but yes, someday we will raise babies together and when I look in her eyes I know her right into eternity. 

Life keeps going and most of the friends you have now won't walk down the aisle in front of you on your big day like you're planning, but it's life and He's good, so hold fast. You will learn to let go and trust more. It will humble you and challenge you to die more and love better, less about you really. You will learn from the mistakes and make new friends and some of will last forever. Not all of them will walk the straight and narrow road, some of them will fall off and it will shake you to the core of your own faith and this too, is good, so hold fast. It's a messy journey, one that is so worth it because we were created to be in relationship, first with the Lord and then with each other. 

The ones worth keeping will see the mess and grab a broom and look into your eyes and tell you the gospel with a single glance and you will be better because of it, and so will she and into eternity you hobble, arms linked. 

The 6 Fs of Friendship:

1.) Fellowship in real life, not behind a screen. When your midnight rolls around, and you don't know what to do, your friend behind the screen isn't going to come running so find one who will. Don't waste your time in fake friendships that hide behind typed words and never go anywhere but back and forth. It's not worth it.

2.) Forget about Facebook.  The number of friends you have, the posts on your wall, the weddings and babies and events—live in the here and  now, your own here and now because that's all you're promised. Facebook friends are great when you have an hour to kill at the airport or ten minutes waiting in line, but get out of cyberspace and invest in some real people, face to face coffee dates and all.

3.) Find your few and pursue them. Focus your attention and time. Invest in people where you are. Stop trying to get everyone to like you, stop trying to hold up some image. Just talk and be real and learn and love because that's how you are going to find the ones worth holding onto—that's where the push comes to shove and some stick around and others don't.

4.) Figure out what works for you. Are you the kinda person who needs one or two besties for life who know you better then you know yourself and even with distance that's enough or are you one who gives chunks to a handful of chosen friends wherever you are at for that season or are you one invests deeply in a many and they change with life? Figure out what works for you and pursue that.

5.) Forge ahead and stop looking back. The past it over and we can't live there. There is no way the past can fulfill current needs. Life keeps a goin' and we change and grow and wonder with it—whatever season of life you are in now, I guarantee you won't be the same person next year so surround yourself with friends who are growing and learning and moving with you. When you lose friends, press on. 

6.) Find grace and forget it. We are all sinners learning to do life together. That means it's gunna be hard and messy so give more grace then you take and forget the little stuff once in a while. Grace can sustain you through a lot, so know it better then you know the hurts and the changes and the fears. Give it freely, lavish it often.

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