Monday, November 7, 2011

Amazing Grace

What I've learned lately has much to do with authenticity. The more real I am with people, the more safe and honest that relationship is and the less I run in to a gap analysis of a friendship. I once thought spending time in and of itself meant I was good friends with someone. After getting hurt by that enough times, I had to adjust my definition despite my love language of quality time. Oh to not only survive but thrive in the safe warm environment of true authenticity. Is it always proper? No. Is it easy? Rarely. Is it beautiful and aching and amazing and painful all at the same time? Absolutely. I can cruse along in happy social outer circle acquaintance level chatter for very small amounts of time. It is truly a draining experience for me.

 I know God is reflected in all of His children in various ways. In making generalizations there are always exceptions to the rule. As this is my outlet, what I share comes from my personal life experiences filtered through my personality, flaws, strengths, beliefs, values and age.  In a college Sociology course, we were asked to define 'common sense'. My interpretation of that phrase was many years ago and still is, it doesn't really exist. Especially here in America, a.k.a. the melting pot. We all have a different definition of what we believe that entails, dependent on the individual. What makes one person laugh, makes another one irritated. What hurts one person doesn't phase another. What one person thinks is inspiration, another sees as pushy or guilt driven. 

Bottom line- I think making close, quality, safe, deep friendships is like getting pregnant. (I use the getting pregnant analogy because after spending almost 3 years trying to conceive learning the nitty gritty of the incredibly small window with all the other conditions vital for conception and growth, it's amazing life continues.) Only through God's grace is either one possible.

Inversely, the more an environment is based on appearances, images, comparing, pride, gossip and judgment the more I withdrawal. The walls could be high from past hurt, disappointment, betrayal or even just a general laid back thick skin attitude. The result is the same, I become less of who I know is the real me. My people pleasing side raises it's ugly head and I feel from the depths of my soul the beginning of trying to conform and I can't stand it.  I know I have to put in my time on that surface level. Truth be told you can learn much about a person in the small talk. When people are 'on', their strengths are at full power often stress fully so.

 I'm female and very relational based, so the topic fascinates me.  Maybe it stems from my analytic cautious side getting to know people. Maybe I'm just so stressed with party planning, in coming relatives, caring for two children during a time change, well child visits with shots, growth spurts, teeth cutting, temper tantrums, days of no naps while having time for my husband, cooking dinner, doing laundry, teaching my children, etc etc.. that I just don't have it in me to play by the 'perfect' world set of rules that doesn't exist. Yes, I don't want to spend my life dwelling on the negative, but let's be real. We ALL struggle. Hide it as deep down as you can, deny it bothers you, minimize it's effects as best as you can but there are certain universal truths regardless of gender, age, nationality, religion or politics. Life can be hard. My greatest blessings from God in marriage, motherhood, extended family, a warm place to live and friendships can all have their bumpy times. Going through that rough times in fact enhances their value, importance, my level of appreciation  and my willingness to sacrifice, serve and find joy in these amazing blessings. What's worth being entrusted with is worth praying about, fighting for, prioritizing around while growing, learning and enjoying.

I pray my boys have deep friendships that challenge and grow them. Yes, I want to have fun experiences  and great adventures. I also really  hope they do something with those. I hope they lead an intentional life.  I'm not knocking fun, or that everything has to be serious. I'm also a person that as I grow older doesn't do much with out personal reflection. What others may see as self doubt, anxiety, insecurity or seriousness is who I am. For good or bad, it's how God made me. I don't question or see who I am as a negative. I truly try to see the best in the people around me. I believe we are all God's children who have value, purpose and beautiful souls that need validation, protection, acceptance and love. We are not bodies with a soul. We are souls who are borrowing bodies for a short time. Our soul will live with Christ after this body dies. The scripture that comes to mind is 2 Corinthians 4:18 "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Via a spiritual gifts test I took many years ago, my Spiritual Gift is mercy. My heart goes out to the hurting. I saw a teenage girl crying in a parked car with what appeared to be her mother on Saturday and I still can't get the image out of my mind. I have prayed for what ever the situation was every day since then. As I was getting my youngest son out of the car, I wanted to approach this complete stranger, give her a hug and cry with her. What the circumstances and details are is irrelevant. It is hurt whether we can relate to it or not. That's real and important. Laughing at it, attacking it, denying it, minimizing it or ignoring, won't heal it. Hurting hearts won't be denied. They will find a way to the surface eventually. Hopefully it's through healthy means such as conversation with God, then a safe inner circle of people in our lives. It reuires hard work and that's what many flee from. They doubt themselves and our Lord's ability to face it head on. We fear we may be overwhelmed or loose the all mighty control we think we have. Our image and our faith may be attacked if we admit for one second that a circumstance got us. We find comfort in any other way to avoid doing the dirty work. The alternative is finding comfort in anything else. What ever we are turning to instead just got the importance of our God. We are believing in it's power more than God's. That, my friends is our idol. 

Real pain in any form, loss, disappointment, grief, betrayal, abandonment, abuse, neglect needs a safe haven. I'm often asked what brings these subjects up. Most of what has been on my heart is actually a compilation of half a dozen scenarios that have occurred over the last months. As I've watched a few women deeply struggle through tears, including myself with certain areas of pain, I realize that's real community. On the way back home during a road trip with nine friends 7 1/2  years ago a horrible car accident happened. What bonded us had nothing to do with boating, cliff diving, water skiing, meals eaten together or laughs. We had each other bonded together in our faith in the small west Texas town in a tiny hospital until families could be contacted. We prayed and cried, we feared and showed our faith.  That requires an authentic, safe, mature, strong person. Any woman can put on a smile with their best manners, hair, clothing and make up and only show what's successful. Anyone can live in the shallow end of superficiality of clothes, money, control and rules. It takes strength to let our guards down. It requires a secure self to admit, "I don't have it all together". It forces me to remind myself of my value in Christ to say I'm specifically not perfect in that my analyzing nature can go too far. As a friend said just this morning, she doesn't generally care what people think about her. Part of me is jealous of that trait. But she also fully admits, it can go too far with other's feelings. Ahhh safety.... that's what my soul feels. Someone who can be real, who knows themselves, who can relate, reach out, be vulnerable and risk. Someone not hiding in the label of suburbia's umbrella of comfort. Taking our strength too far and it becoming a weakness doesn't invalidate the feelings or the insight that may come from it. It reminds me that what God thinks is more important than what anyone reading this, including what my own sons some day think about me. Know as much as my thinking side can result in well thought out and intentional living, it can also cause the self doubt some see. Have I seen a glimpse of someone's personality and slapped a label on them? Of course I have.... Was I right? Never in whole. No one is only one facet of their personality. God made us too wonderfully for something as simple as "insecure".

So how do some relationships achieve that precious inner circle status of most trusted, valued and close friendships? I don't know. Too complex for me right now. I just knew if I don't get out some of what has been spinning through my head I stop moving forward. A purge of thought must occur or the analysis of paralysis ensues. My husband is calling so I don't have time to proof read tonight. (I did this morning :-)) I say goodnight. Risk and turn to God. He will never minimize or reject your hurt. He will always come through with love, acceptance, strength and grace for where ever we are. He does not judge our hurts, He just heals what others have damaged. That is amazing grace....

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