I haven’t written a lot lately. Partly because my computer was in hospice and partly because I’ve tried to be more intentional about living real life with real people. For so long most of my “friendships” and social life were online. I communicated with people through Facebook messages and posts on their wall and the occasional text but I rarely connected with them in real life or through actual calling and if I did it definitely wasn’t on a regular basis.
Just prior to and most certainly during and after we went through everything with Grace one of the things I was realizing is how important and invaluable real life relationships are. I was starting to shed some of the bad habits I’d picked up in the previous years and starting to get intentional about being a good friend.
No more not answering my phone (most of the time). No more making up excuses for why I can’t hang out. No more selfishly guarding my time. No more weighing how much something will require of me before I commit. No more not picking up the phone to call someone when I know they’re going through something difficult. No more feeling lonely and unknown.
I’ve been both the receiver and giver of bad friendships. I’ve both not called someone when I should have and not been called when I should have. I’ve been the family member not to call and I’ve been the one the family member didn’t call. And it didn’t matter until it mattered. I was okay living a mostly independent life. But then the bottom fell out and it wasn’t okay anymore. I would’ve drowned in anxiety and grief if I hadn’t had the people around me I do helping me bear my burdens.
And I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to fall back into my old habits that resulted in mostly surface living with others. It’s easy to get together and have a good time with people. It’s hard to break down in front of somebody and admit you don’t feel like trusting, you feel like being angry. It’s easy to have lots of people over at one time. It’s hard to invite just one person over and do the hard and sometimes awkward work of getting to know someone. It’s easy to make small talk at church. It’s hard to get together on a weekly basis and share where you’re really at – the fears, disappointments, convictions, hopes, prayers.
I remember someone I used to know telling me her phone hadn’t rung in at least two weeks from a friend. At the time I thought, Well, mine hasn’t either. I can honestly say I can’t honestly say that anymore.
And it didn’t start by me waiting for somebody to be a good friend to me. I had to get real about it. I had to confront head-on that I was lonely because my relationships were mostly surface. I had to admit that it was mostly my fault. I was being relationally lazy.
I started taking notice of people around me who had rich friendships and the qualities they possessed. I watched and watched and learned and learned. I started to do as they did.
I committed to answering my phone most of the time (unless I really couldn’t at the moment). I committed to saying yes if I didn’t have a legitimate reason to say no. I committed to loving others well and seeking their good. I committed to striving to be a person that others wanted to be around and not someone who drug them down. I committed to getting to know others well and not just talk about myself because we should be getting to know others and not just making ourselves known.
And I began to bear the richest fruit of friendships. And wouldn’t you know God’s perfect timing because not long after all this we received Grace’s diagnosis and went on to walk (and continue to walk) the toughest season of our lives. But I wasn’t alone. I can’t remember a doctor’s appointment where I didn’t receive multiple texts and messages asking how it went and to let me know they were praying. They held prayer showers, prayed weekly at Bible study, called, came over, cooked meals.
Rich, authentic relationships are so worth it. They’re worth the awkward beginnings, the forced phone calls, the giving when you’d rather stay home, the time required.
I want real life friendships. I want the richness of actually sitting across from someone and being able to see their eyes when they share their latest struggle or joy. I want the friends that I see or call or text on a daily basis. I want the friends that my kids know by name. I want the friends who are village-ing my children and me, theirs.
So that means less time posting pictures of me hanging out with friends and just hanging out with friends.