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BLOG: When friendship just looks different

I was talking with a friend. It wasn't a normal conversation because the back and forth was happening on different days. As in, she'd voice message me using one of those high-tech cell phone apps and then, a day or so later, I'd respond. That's how it goes and while it's not the same as in-person or even on-the-phone, it keeps us connected. And so we chatted about how friendships sometimes change or grow or sometimes even look very little like they once did.

That's where we were, we'd concluded, and I almost believed it. Until I realized I didn't.

Because yes, our friendship doesn't look like it once did. In fact, I don't have any remaining friendships from my life in America that do look the same. And all this time I've been thinking that was a bad thing. Like it was another loss and another something to grieve.

But as I was responding I heard myself speaking a truth I hadn't even processed until the words issued forth from my lips. It was one of the many times in my life that I've audibly heard God press something into my ear that I desperately needed to hear. How odd that He used my own voice this time, but also how fitting.

I've spent so much of this year grieving the loss of my friends without letting myself truly acknowledge it. Today I realized I haven't lost them at all. And more has stayed the same in those friendships than my stubborn eyes were willing to see.

In my "former" life my friendships were encouraging and edifying. They still are.

My friends and I would pray for each other. We still do.

We'd compare notes and share experiences and learn, each one from the other. That's still happening.

Sometimes we'd cry together. Yep, that hasn't changed, either.

Most of the time we'd laugh over little things and nothing much at all. Check. And check.

We'd talk about how God was leading in our lives and how grateful we were to see His hand in the details. Perhaps now more than ever.

The critical aspects of friendship are still there and thriving but because they're no longer composed the same, I've discounted how healthy it all is. Absolutely, some friends connect more deeply, or more often, than others but that ebb and flow happens for everyone. Life is fluid and entirely unpredictable.

In church a number of years ago, a friend spoke from the pulpit and shared an analogy using legos. He said that a lego only has so many pegs on which to place other legos and so as we grow and as time shifts and flows, we have to make adjustments to our lego. Sometimes one gets removed, not out of spite but due to natural forces and that's okay. It doesn't mean all is lost, it simply means the season has changed, at least for awhile.

But then there are other times where legos get stacked one on top of the other in order to make room. It requires gentle and delicate balance to maintain multiple close relationships and that stacking generally only works when both parties are intentional about staying connected. I have one of the most amazing friends who I barely knew before I left Virginia, but it took intentionality to grow that friendship almost 9000 miles apart using technology. Yet, it worked.

It basically culminates in the design and construction of your lego base. This afternoon I realized mine has a few stacks but also some legos that are hanging on by a single peg. Those one-peggers are the people I don't talk with often but with whom I randomly trade a message or a funny meme ( a week or two ago a friend of almost two decades sent me one that was so true it actually made me laugh right out loud) or even the briefest of notes to let each other know we're not forgotten. I'll forever be grateful for those friends. Life looks different when you don't live close enough to do it together, but it's a beautiful thing when you hold onto what you had rather than casting it aside because it not exactly the same in the day to day.

My geography has changed and that reality brought with it a considerable helping of pain. But it's also brought new friends, new experiences, new opportunities, and a reminder that old friendships can dress up in new clothes. The past 3 years have filled me to overflowing and left me gasping for air. Very little is the same but that's also not bad.

I've gone from being at the center of some of my friends' legos to being a one-pegger and, in this moment, I'm realizing what a gift it is that they've saved even that space for me. I know how busy life is and how much demand there is on time and energy. My heart's been longing for what I already have and I'm ashamed of the fact that I couldn't see it. I'm also praising God that I see it now.

Life is meant to be lived and living takes us down roads we didn't know existed. The best map for navigating uncharted territory is contentment and a willingness to know without doubt that God will supply all your needs.

Even, and especially, the ones that involve other humans.



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