2. a: of a sympathetic or helpful nature
b : of a forbearing nature : gentle
I've been through lots of transitions in the last 12 or 13 months. Some of these transitions have meant loss, some have brought gain. I have had friendships that have withered, disappeared, died mid-stream. This is completely natural and perhaps as it should be. My counselor believes all friendships are for a season and that the more we individually move towards health and healing, the more instances of solitude and/or loneliness we will feel. I think this is true because the more we are willing to take our own journey and walk our own unique path, the more likely it is that friends will veer off - either for their own journeys or to continue on the well-worn, accepted paths.
I am not one to shy away from solitude and its attendant gifts of introspection, quiet and revelation, but I have found in recent years that friendships are worth pursuing. Maybe this sounds odd to you. Doesn't everyone want friends? Probably so, but friendship also has costs. It requires our time, our energy and, most importantly, a willingness to be vulnerable. Sure, you can have friendships without being vulnerable or authentic, but those aren't real friendships, are they? And to be quite honest, I've never been very good at being artificial, superficial or less than authentic. There's plenty of junk in my life, in my past and in my heart. And while I don't go around flaunting it - I'd much rather try to learn from it and move through it - I don't pretend to have it all together. I guess I'm simply too much of a mess to even try to pretend to have it all together - that seems like such work for so little reward! But if I'm going to live life like I want to - authentically, first and foremost - then I must be willing to be vulnerable. And vulnerability risks rejection. Being willing to plant a seed of friendship means accepting that your watering of the soil, your tending the area for weeds, all of your work may not bear fruit. Not every friendship we nurture will bloom - and some that do bloom will still die after a season.
I'm OK with friendships being for a season. I think the alternative is to stop growing and stay who we are and I don't want to do that. I'm not the same person I was five or ten years ago and I hope I won't be the same person tomorrow or a year from now. What's the point of the pain and the beauty of life if it doesn't help us grow?
That doesn't mean I don't grieve friendships that haven't sustained as I wanted, expected, hoped. I have. I still do.
This still present grief makes it all the more beautiful and touching when I look back on the last week. Two different friends have talked with me, encouraged me and listened to me. I haven't known either of these women for very long, but they are in or have been in similar circumstances to mine and they have been so willing to listen and just be a friend. They have been kind, yes, but even more than that, I've found it so kind of God to have put these women in my life at just the right time, at just the moment when I need support and encouragement.
Even when I am seeking God's face and feeling his presence, I can forget that he cares about how I am feeling. I forget that he is sympathetic to my pain, gentle in his care for me, kindness personified.
I hope I can learn from his example and be kind. Kind to my children, to others, to myself. I think I am most impatient with my children when they fail to learn a lesson the first (or second or third) time. This is also when I am prone to get most frustrated with myself - when will I ever learn?! But a component of kindness is forbearance and gentleness. I've been working with my girls on letting their love for each other cover the little offenses they inflict. I keep reminding them that they do love their sisters and life together leaves little bumps and bruises. That's why the love is there in their hearts - to be a salve to those careless wounds inflicted by siblings and others.
Perhaps I should listen to my own words and remember to be kind to myself on the off days, on the days that don't go as planned, on the days when I fail to meet my own expectations. Because here's what I don't want: I don't want to be faced with the evidence of God's kindness to me and walk away unchanged. I don't want to see him place two friends squarely in my path and walk around them, ignoring the offering. I want to accept that gift with a thankful heart and pour out kindness in response. I want to be changed.