Friends. I came of age wondering if Rachel and Ross were going to make it, and of course, wanting Rachel’s hair. I’m still not sure exactly what the magic of the show is, but people are binge watching it on Netflix 14 years after it last aired. While entertaining, I don’t know how significant the lives of 20 somethings sharing apartments on sitcoms is, but I do know that real friends play a very important role in our real lives.
Last week I mentioned here on the blog that I was getting ready for a ladies luncheon entitled Dear Younger Me. My corner of the world is blessed with beautiful wise women (and men!), and I enjoyed the lunch so much. The hostesses gave this precious gift of a little booklet filled with letters from women to their younger selves. It is a treasure. Let me share just a couple of my favorite nuggets on friendship.
“Sincerely listen to people, be present in the conversation. Always keep ice tea, an apple, almonds and a good cheese in the refrigerator. The shelf life is long so you will always be prepared to open your house for impromptu get-togethers.” Can I get an “Amen”!? I love this advice. An impromptu gathering at my house might involve tiptoeing around legos and shoving laundry off the couch first, but I want you to come!
And this is one of my favorites: “Everyone feels safer behind masks…but everyone is hungry for authenticity and vulnerability. So as often as you can, take your mask off. More often than not, someone else will say ‘me too’ and take their mask off, too. And giving someone the chance to say ‘me too’ is one of the greatest gifts you can give.”
I have often felt like I don’t have many true friends. When I scroll through my Instagram feed, it appears that everyone has traveling companions and tennis partners, dinner clubs and a steady stream of play dates for their kids. I, of course, have some of these things also, but not in the quantity and intensity that everyone else does. This is one of the great dangers of social media. We now have multiple platforms on which to compare our real life against other’s highly edited for public consumption lives.
When I consider my real life, though, I’ve always had just enough friends. Every season of life has blessed me with at least one person that I could invite over at the last-minute to eat takeout on the floor in front of the coffee table, to whom I could open my closet door without apology, and most importantly, with whom I could take the mask off. I don’t like that so many of these people who used to occupy such a central place in my daily life are now people with whom I merely exchange Christmas cards, but I’m so grateful for the season of closeness that we shared nonetheless.
So, with that in mind, here is today’s prompt about friendship: What are three things you’ve learned from your friends?
1. You cannot laugh too much. I remember in college, two of my best friends and I were cracking up at something and their roommate, who was probably trying to study or sleep, told us that we were laughing so much we were going to get wrinkles. We were all of twenty years old and not the least bit concerned about smile lines, and this just made us laugh harder. One year on a women’s retreat with our church, our room got to giggling over funny memories one night which grew into loud guffaws. A friend staying in another room came to get onto us, but she fell over a suitcase in the dark, and of course, we were undone all over again. That deep belly laugh that causes you to be sore the next day, those giggles that you just can’t get under control, are instruments of healing. It’s hard to keep a mask on when you’re undone. Most of the time, friends you can laugh until you cry with are friends whose shoulders you can trust when the crying is born of sorrow.
2. Throw parties. Graduation parties, bridal showers, going away parties, baby showers, sip ‘n sees, 10 years in ministry surprise parties, “retirement” dinners, birthday lunches. I truly must be one of the most celebrated individuals on earth! And I wouldn’t trade it. I’ve learned that the trouble of cleaning the house, ironing table cloths, arranging flowers, cooking for days, is usually worth it. I’ve also learned that people are happy to bring things, and they’re happy for the chance to get together even if it’s casual, imperfect, and last-minute by text. My book club always talks about the night we ate Thai food take out at my dining room table. It was delicious. It was the best I could do that particular week, but I wouldn’t have missed the chance to sit around the table and talk about a good book with my friends. People love to be celebrated, to be told thank you, to be told I love you, to be included. A good party, however fancy or casual, says all those things. The Bible tells us to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and a good celebration multiplies joy.
3. Lean in. This is my biggest growing edge as a friend, and unfortunately I think I’ve learned mostly from my mistakes. Joan Baskin, one of the speakers at this lovely luncheon I’ve been talking about, said that when you have someone on your mind all day, you should pick up the phone and call them. It’s probably a prompting of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I do this well. Sometimes I think of someone or an idea of something nice I want to do for someone, and I follow through. I never regret it. It’s always the right thing. But so often, I think of someone, maybe many times over, and I just let the daily details of life keep me from calling or sending the note or buying the gift or saying thank you. I hate that. Sometimes people’s lives get hard, and I don’t know how to help or what to say. I know as well as anyone that it doesn’t matter. It’s just important to show up. But I don’t always. Once in a sermon about the Church I talked about how the Church is made up of people and sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes people fall through the cracks, but other people’s lives are changed by the love they receive. I think it’s true of friends, too. We’re human. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t. But I want to lean in more than I back away.
Kaye Cowden, another of the lovely luncheon speakers said, “Nothing is too small nor too messy for you and your friends to tackle. Hold hands and take care of each other, everyday. Never pass up an opportunity to offer an encouraging word or tell them you appreciate them being in your life…No disagreement or argument or opinion is more important than the relationship. Be patient, be available, be kind.” Lean in.
I’m wishing all of you, my readers, these kind of friends. It is a sacred thing to be offered a look behind the mask. It is a holy trust that allows us to hold each other up. It’s true love when we can be undone and still belong, still be held by the hand through thick and thin.
I’m so grateful for all my friends, new and old. Your love has marked my life and made me better.
So, I really want to hear from you now! What are three things you’ve learned from your friends? Email me firstname.lastname@example.org