The Wounds of a Friend

Don’t you hate it when someone talks about how busy they are?  Me, too.  It’s really obnoxious.

So … I’ve been really busy lately.  I have been out of town twice in the last two weeks — my globe-trotting sister would laugh at me, but that’s not my norm, so it throws me.  One of those jaunts was to a writer’s conference, which required extensive preparation beforehand, and (happily!) even more extensive preparation afterward, since two agents asked to see the entire manuscript for my novel.

I’ve also been scrambling to keep up with the end of the school year, both at the school where I teach, and in home schooling.  And I’ve been trying to prepare a short story for the Glimmer Train new writers competition, which happens to be my Holy Grail.

In the midst of all of this, I have dropped the ball quite dramatically in keeping up with friends.  I have not been calling people back, I have been short in my emails.  There’s been an added complication in the fact that our new answering machine is a joke and has not been recording incoming messages.

So, a few days ago, when I emailed a dear friend to see if we could get together for coffee, it didn’t turn out so well.  I realize that emails are notoriously hard to read and can seem terse when they aren’t.  But in this case, she was notably brief and cold.  After a few days of trying to figure out what was going on, I finally squeezed an answer out of her.

She has decided, based on my neglect, that I am not interested in a friendship with her.  I am stunned.  And hurt.  And I feel like defending myself, but I can’t because I have pretty much disappeared from her life lately.  And, to be honest, I haven’t ever been that great in the keeping-up department.

It’s apparently too late for this friendship, based on the finality of her last contact with me.  I am grieving that loss.  And I want to make sure this doesn’t happen again with my other friendships.  How do you, dear readers, make sure you make time for friends, in the midst of all your family, work, church, and dream-chasing obligations?

Turf Wars

When we moved to Colorado, we were extremely fortunate to find our church home within a week.  I’d done internet research before moving, checking statements of faith and service times.  And we had decided ahead of time not to rule out any churches based solely on non-doctrinal things like music or order of service.  But the real attraction that we had to our church, from the very first minute, was the warmth of the people.  In fact, we met our first new church friend outside the church, before we’d made it out of the parking lot and onto the curb.

Within a week, we’d been introduced around to several other families, and within a month, we’d been to people’s homes for lunch and dinner.  It was a huge relief to find such a welcoming place, especially since Pete and I had been members of our previous, ultra-friendly church for sixteen and eighteen years, respectively.

But there are still pockets of people at our new church, a year and half later, who seem not to care that we’re there.  In fact, sometimes I wonder if they’d rather we left.  A few people–women in particular, for some reason–have blatantly ignored us.  There are times when I’ve been talking to a friend in the hallway, and one of these women will walk by, say ‘hello’ to the person I’m talking with, and not even look at me.  I teach Sunday school to the daughter of one of these women, and I don’t even think she’s ever asked my name.  I have chatted and laughed with the teenage daughter of one of the other women, and Pete is buddies with her husband, but each time I see her, I have to initiate the ‘hello.’  And if I don’t, she just walks by me without a word or a bit of eye contact.  I have watched these women in other situations to see if that’s just how they are–quiet, perhaps not very social–but that’s not the case.  I see them talking to other people quite a bit, but there is one common denominator in all of their friends: they’ve all been members of the church for many years.

Our church had a huge growth spurt over the last year, and I do think some of the current members are a bit bewildered.  But it is hurtful to be on the receiving end of the cold shoulder, whatever the reason might be.  It makes me wonder if these passive turf wars are in place at other churches as well.  Since I joined our last church when it was only two years old, and there were only 39 people, I have never really been the new girl.  Pete joined when the church was only four years old, so he’s new to being new, too.

All of this makes me wonder if I gave that cold shoulder to visitors, new members, even just newer-than-me members, back when I was the old-timer.  I hope and pray that I didn’t.  Because it misses the whole point of church.  It’s not a club or a hierarchy.  It’s a ministry, where all are welcome.

Or should be.

Go

I haven’t been posting these past few days because, as you might have guessed, we were visiting Pete’s mom, and attending the memorial service for Pete’s dad, Neil.

In the days leading up to the memorial, and even in the few moments in the car on the way to the church, Pete’s mom, Joyce, kept repeating, “I don’t think there will be many people there.  Maybe fifty or so.”  She tried to hide the sadness in her voice at that thought, but it was audible.  And it was visible in her eyes.

Everyone disagreed with her.  Pete and his siblings, and all the cousins, aunts, and uncles from out of state (one drove fourteen hours to get there) all shook their heads.  No, they said.  There would be more.  Neil was dearly loved.

Still, Joyce continued to insist that there would be few.  “He was an introvert,” she said.  “He made good friends, but not very many.”

We arrived at the church an hour before the service, to sit in the family parlor and talk to the minister about the service.  Still, Joyce continued to quietly predict a low turnout, her shoulders slightly rounded, her eyes a bit dim.

But people began to come.  They started early, a trickle, and steadily increased as time marched on and Joyce began to sit up straighter and her eyes began to glimmer and sparkle and a smile spread across her face.  “They just keep streaming in,” she said to me finally, her face upturned and lit with wonder.

I did not count the people.  And I am not good at estimates of those things.  But the pews of the large church were nearly filled.  And the reception line seemed to go on forever afterwards.

The next time you hear of a friend’s passing, and you know the date and time of the memorial service, please go.  It is not for the sake of the lost one, it is for the sake of the one who is left.  Your presence in their time of grief will honor them, comfort them, and leave forever on the hearts of the family–particularly the widow or widower–the knowledge that they are not alone in recognizing and grieving the loss of their loved one.

What if?

What if You’re Wrong?” by Nichole Nordeman

What if you’re right, and He was just another nice guy? What if you’re right?

What if it’s true: they say the cross will only make a fool of you.  And what if it’s true?

What if He takes His place in history with all the prophets and the kings, who taught us love and came in peace, but there the story ends.  What then?

But what if you’re wrong?  What if there’s more?  What if there’s hope you never dreamed of hoping for?  What if you jump–just close your eyes–what if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?  What if He’s more than enough?  What if it’s love?

What if you dig, way down deeper than your simple-minded friends?  What if you dig?  What if you find a thousand more unanswered questions down inside?  And that’s all you find?

What if you pick apart the logic, and begin to poke the holes?  What if the crown of thorns is no more than folklore that must be told–and retold?

But what if you’re wrong?  What if there’s more?  What if there’s hope you never dreamed of hoping for?  What if you jump–just close your eyes–what if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?  What if He’s more than enough?  What if it’s love?

You’ve been running as fast as you can.

You’ve been looking for a place you can land … for so long.  And what if you’re wrong?

 

I’ve been listening to Nichole Nordeman’s “Brave” cd for a few days now, and this song is one I always turn up louder and repeat a couple of times before moving on to the next one.  Generally, as I’m listening to it, I think about all my friends and family who don’t know Jesus like I do, and I make the song a sort of prayer that they’ll examine their thoughts about Him and see that they’re missing something amazing.  (Note:  the one line I object to in the song is “just close your eyes.”  It smacks a bit too much of wishful thinking, and I firmly believe that the best chance someone has of finding the true Jesus is to keep his eyes wide, wide open.  Jesus isn’t elusive and wispy and fairy-like.  He’s right here, waiting to be seen, examined, and focused upon.)

Lately, though, I have begun to realize that, to answer one of the song’s many questions, there really is “more.”  More than I can imagine, even having been a Christian now for nearly thirty years.   I feel like I’ve been wading along in a knee-deep faith, just skimming the surface, making me, in effect, “wrong” about who He truly is.

I don’t believe any of us will fully know Him until we see Him face to face, but I want to continue, throughout my life, to seek Him out and know Him more intimately than I ever have before.

Trusted with Treasures

I just received an email from a dear friend–yes, it was a forwarded email, and though I don’t usually adore forwarded emails, this one was quite good.  It was a short devotional that dealt primarily with how crafty we are at justifying our own sins while pointing out the horror of others’ sins.

But that’s not my point.

I was the only person in the address list at the top of the email, and my friend’s first sentence was this:  “I had to share this with someone and you’re the only one I could who would read it and not take it personally.”

Wow.  That really hit me.  So much so, I reread it a couple of times before I read on.  I think it’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.  And it made me realize that, if she truly believes that she can trust me with difficult truths that mean something to her, there is likely very little in her heart that she will hold back from me.  (I’m not basing this solely on this one sentence; our friendship is probably the most open one that I have ever had.)

Of course, after the glow of the compliment began to wane, I was hit with a huge sense of responsibility to her.  She didn’t just forward this devotional because it was well-written.  She forwarded it because it hit her in a deeply personal way, which she went on to share with me.  I felt as if she had told me to hold out my hands, and she’d placed her most fragile, delicate treasures in my open palms.

If she is willing to entrust those treasures to me, I need to be certain that she never regrets it.