Friendship is hard. I don’t know who you are, but my guess is you’re one of three people. You’re the “friendship is hard” people, or you’re the “what are you talking about, I have lots of friends” people. Or maybe you’re another group in the “I guess it’s hard for some people” people.
I’ve spent some time in the first and last groups. I never thought that it would be difficult making friends. I’ve been that balance of extrovert/introvert most of my life and have always found a few people to hang with on nearly any occasion. It really wasn’t until I was in my mid-30s, not really doing much in the way of partying any more and finding myself with lots of acquaintances, but not a lot of the deep, resilient friendships I always thought I had.
Then getting married and having kids right away really put a wrench in. Then throw in moving and not having a Job-job (ie outside of the home or whatever phrase we’re using these days) and I am ripe for the L word… lonely.
I can admit it. I have been lonely. How can it be? Neck-deep in the middle of raising 3 kids, married to really the most perfect man ever, and trying to help a church on a fading course, it seems like I would have a lot to do and be constantly surrounded by people.
But I don’t think I’d have to look far for people who relate to this. I know people who have said these same things. It gets harder as you get older. We just don’t go up to people and say, “Will you be my friend? Will you be the one who I can talk to over a cup of coffee and pour out my heart and you’ll have just the right thing to say or do every time and help me get through life for the rest of my days?”
Or do we? Maybe it’s time for some of us to be more intentional, not just say we will, and not just wish we had the luxury of real friends. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s part of what we are made for, and I feel more and more convicted about that. Loneliness is an option, but it’s not a very good one. I think admitting I’m lonely feels like I’m saying I’m needy or that I don’t know how to relate well with others or some other admittance of being lame, generally speaking.
But I think more often than not, I’ve been too content with shallowness and it’s masked my need for true friendships in the past. It’s only now when I’ve found myself at a real loss that I realize how much I actually crave it. And that can become a healthy craving or an unhealthy one when left on its own.
What else can I do? How do we build friendships? How do we maintain relationships that matter? What will work?
There’s a song on a kids’ show that we watch sometimes that goes “What’s gonna work? Team work!” My family sings it once in awhile when it comes up. It’s cute and sweet. And absolutely true. Life is hard and messy. We need a team. We need to pull together and we need to struggle with each other and for each other. What’s gonna work?
If you’ve ever been on a team building retreat, you probably did a ropes course. Because that’s why those exist. And because there are people who really love being high and slightly at risk for their lives. I don’t mind it. I haven’t done one in awhile, but remembering back, I do recall this feeling of maybe I could just do this alone. Maybe it’s a little bit harder to get across some things and a helping hand is good now and then, but all in all, it’s faster to just go alone.
We think that way about life too, at least I do. At times, it feels so complicated. Just making plans to meet for coffee is so complicated any more. It’s just easier to drink coffee alone. It’s easy to be lonely. And it becomes comforting in a way.
Or maybe I just have relied heavily on my husband. I know I have. My husband is my everything. I really do see him as my sun, moon, and stars. But that can become really unhealthy really quickly, can’t it? I caught myself once when he came home from working and all the kids were talking at once and I started talking to him like I had to use up my allotted time as quickly as possible. He said something like, I really love it when everyone talks at once. I lol’d and realized what was happening. We all really needed him to be that guy. And while my relationship with my husband is and should always be my most important interpersonal relationship, it won’t be everything I need it to be at all times. That’s way too much pressure on him, but it also is so completely unhealthy for me. I am made to relate. I can’t get away from that.
So it’s the beginning of Lent today and it occurred to me that what I really need to give up is being alone. I need to give up this idea that I can be strong and sufficient alone. I need to admit my needs. I need to stop thinking that I’m being super spiritual by having some kind of “just me and Jesus” mentality, and that I need to start reaching out more. Because chances are there’s someone else out there that needs me too. It’s hard. It’s awkward. It means giving up some things and giving away. It means rezoning – my comfort zone – and finding that elusive time no matter what. I pray that I am ready. I am ready for the ropes course and I’m hoping you all will come with me.