For those that have known me awhile, you may know that I have a little experience talking about friendship. I am an expert at getting it wrong and therefore, am uniquely qualified to help others, simply by avoiding my many missteps (I'll take self deprecating humor as a defense mechanism for $200 Chuck). Tonight I got a bit of a schooling from my daughter... about how far I have come. My son had surgery yesterday and my birthday was just one week ago. In the last month I have received an unbelievable amount of love, generous gifts and affection. Over and over again I have been humbled and spoiled by people who owe me nothing. Some of them I feel that I, in fact, owe deeply. I was talking to my daughter about how difficult it is for me to accept these gifts with grace. Everything in me wants to say that I cannot accept them. There is a fear of being indebted but even more than that, of just feeling unworthy and like a charity case. My pride jumps to my throat and chokes me. I want to say I do not need any of these things and yet each one has been like a balm to my heart and soul. They have watered a dry and weary land. I was somewhat lamenting about this to my daughter (a very frightening rear view image of me in so many ways) and she stopped me cold.
"Mom, this is what comes of reaping what you sow" she said. "What?" I nervously asked (that phrase has been a negative one most of my life). "Mom, you have told me so many times that friendship must be nurtured and fed. You only get the relationship that you build. You teach others how to treat you by the way you treat them. Isn't this just a reflection of the loyalty, love and affection that you give to them? Aren't they just responding to the love they feel from you toward them?" Um...
I can honestly say that each and every one of the people who have gone out of their way for me in the last month are people that my heart loves. I would never think twice about doing everything in my power to be there in their time of need to love, spoil and show affection. Yet I do not feel as though I am worthy of the same at all. As I type that, I cannot help but see my daughter's point. I know (to my core) how wonderful it feels to have people to love and yet it is so hard for me to allow people to love me.
We are called to love everyone and to put others before ourselves but friendship is something else. Friendship is indeed a ship. It is a journey that two people choose to take together. It is a choice. It requires two people deciding (for their own separate reasons) to protect, defend, encourage, hear and support each other through the good, bad and ugly. Like a ship it must be guided. It must be steered and maintained. Like ships, friendship has seasons in which it provides more pleasure (perfect summer days) and seasons in which it is hard work (scraping and repainting the bottom during fall and winter). But one cannot be without the other. There are friendships that bob gently at the dock where the waters are shallow and safe. There is a comfortable peace and relaxation to them that can feed your spirit. Then there are some who slice through the calm waters and refresh you with the breeze. The ones that scare me the most but bring me the most joy, are the ones who sway and rock at the whims of life's open waters. Although challenging and risky, they are the ones that feed your passion for the wind and waves. For the record there are also friendships that become like the rocks just under the water that are dangerous and can damage your boat and your life. Avoid those (oh sure, I could say more but another time perhaps).
I have come a long way. I used to see friendship as a permanent bond and I would mourn the loss as though it were a death. There was a time when I judged my worth by how many friends I had and how long I had them. Many times I felt as though being friends with certain people held higher value because of how they saw me and how everyone else saw them. Now I know that friendships are living breathing things. They grow and change along with us. Thank you to all the people who have taken precious time, energy and risk to be my friend. Please know that I do not take you for granted. I now need to rethink the phrase "reap what you sow" and what positive things it could mean in my life.