As we get to be true friends, we start to know each other. Let me tell you, no one is normal. The next phase of a deepening friendship is the “reality phase”. It’s when you realize the friend you have has problems. They have a terrible temper or jealousy troubles. They are way too sensitive, or inconsiderate, or gossip, or get annoyed at trivial things. Or they have the worst problem of all– they see you as having problems. Which, of course, seems impossible at first. You start to resent them or become confused. It’s frustrating and increasingly complicated. The illusion of the perfect friendship begins to die or become real, which in this world is the same thing. The dream is dying, but like a seed dies and births new life the dream of idealized friendship dies and give birth to a flesh and blood relationship. And then you have a choice to make.
You have to decide if you want to be gracious or selfish. That is harder than it sounds, and most of us don’t even realize that it is this particular choice at stake. Many of us go for it. We try to work with what we’ve got. Some of us, who have more mistrust, or have been wounded, well, we get scared. Some of us, at this point, sort of run off. Or we disconnect a bit. They might not notice it, but we know what we’re doing. It’s a built in safety feature. It doesn’t give us any practice at grace, but it makes us feel better for a while.
It makes us feel better until we realize what we’ve given up. We’ve forfeited something that the core of our heart desires so badly. We yearn deep from that place to be known and loved. We hunger to experience grace. We’ve given it up because we don’t think it’ll work out right. We’ll get hurt again. Things will go badly. So we get stuck.
The “reality phase” is a real bummer. But if we push through it suitably and determine to learn something, we can end up better than we started. We can have deep friendships so long as we can regularly negotiate a gracious environment. If we are intentional about it, things will go so much better. Again, easier said than done.
Beyond our close friendships, I believe, we can have a couple “core people” that we let in even closer. I don’t think these “core people” should just be anybody. This group should be small in number, fairly mature people, mostly kindhearted, and worthy of our trust, but we can’t think they’ll be perfect either. Nobody will be that.
I didn’t have this all thought out at the time, but in the concert line with my friends, I thought it was worth the risk to reveal what they would be getting into. Finally, after a good bit of internal angst, I said to them, “If you really got to know me you wouldn’t like me.”
This, of course, was met with what I expected. “That’s not true.” And “That’s really sad that you would think that.” And “We already know you, and we love you.” And “There isn’t anything that would make us not like you.” And all the things people say before they realize they’ve been friends inadvertently with "the Devil". I didn’t believe them for a second. But I wanted to.
I didn’t believe it, I think, because I know how much of a wreck people are. I know how flawed I am. And in life people leave. They move away or go away. They move on, get fed up. They were hoping you’d be pre-packaged good times, and easy to deal with. They want the perfectly healthy friend, just like I hope to have. The friend that is always there, and always kind, and always supportive. Just like the person you barely know is. The people we don’t know make the best friends, right?
This of course is a lie. A person who barely knows you is an acquaintance. They make only a certain kind of friend. They can be helpful, and nurturing, but a friend, is someone who knows all about your crap, and is still okay with you. They love you and speak truth into your life. They help correct you in a very loving way, not to get you back, or hurt you, but to make you a better person. They are selfless like that. And if you don’t change when and how they want you to they still accept and love you. And you, being a person who is their real friend, do the same.
An acquaintance doesn’t need to operate in an environment of grace. Grace is medicine for desperate times. Grace steps in when illusion and superficiality ends. It’s the thing we need most in the “reality phases” of our lives. Grace defined as unearned favor, is really what deep friendships are all about.
This is why I think it’s much easier to read someone the Four Spiritual Laws and coach them in the sinner’s prayer than actually get involved in their life and be Jesus to them. We have enough trouble doing this with our best friends, doing that with the lost? Are you kidding? That would take the Holy Spirit. Who has time for that? I’m exhausted– show grace? Please!
Isn’t it funny, that this is exactly what we are to do? Not funny, just ironic, I guess. We are supposed to be letting the Spirit heal us, and function through us. We are created to be, or become, gracious and non superficial. When weren’t not,things get messed up. They feel unloved. We feel unloved. And we both feel too overwhelmed to be embodiments of grace. So much of the time, we spend our own energy to work this all out. But God’s power is right at our disposal.
New Date-FEB 20
6 years ago