Friendship is a very meaningful part of my life. My introverted side loves the intimate friendship of one or two ladies, sharing our hearts, our lives. The extroverted Mandy loves the group dynamic. I love to laugh, hang out, and enjoy a robust loud conversation. I am pretty balanced, enjoying both kinds of interaction. However, here lately, I have found it difficult to connect in either way. I suppose it is because we are all so busy that we do not have time to spend on friendship, our families and personal lives are hard to handle as it is.
Friendships take nurturing, and nurturing takes time…time most of us do not have. Or do we? I think maybe we choose the wrong things, things that do not fulfill us. Like how we choose to sit in our living rooms watching TV instead of inviting a friend or two for dinner. Or how I skip the phone call in favor of one more load of laundry. Some of the things that take my time are necessary, there is nothing I can do about work schedules and church commitments and school obligations. But, my discretionary time says a lot about who I am. I say, “I do not have discretionary time.” Today I am saying, “Hogwash. I don’t believe that.”
Anthony the Great, the Father of Monks said, “Our life and our death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ.”
What does that mean for a housewife and mother of five? Well I have always believed that love begins in the home. I am not a mother who runs about being idle while neglecting my family. However, sometimes I think a home school mother can become a bit of an isolationist…bordering on an elitist. We have this atmosphere in our homes that we do not want interrupted or tampered with. I will be the first one to admit that opening up our home, our life, is a challenge. It’s difficult to be accessible. To be open, hospitable, unafraid, warm, and welcoming is a challenge for those who believe that our homes are a refuge from the evil world.
But where does that leave my neighbor? Is my neighbor evil?
The challenge of dark days is not to despair that ALL people are bad…to not participate in the culture of mistrust and suspicion. To be wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove. To keep loving, to keep being a part. And I am a part of this world, whether I like it or not. And this generation, and this country, and this town, and this neighborhood, and this family. I am not separate.
My home is not a sterile laboratory, free of contamination. It is a scary thing if I am the best person I know. Or my husband the best husband. Or my kids the best kids. That is true loneliness. And a true hindrance to friendship. I have to be willing to get dirty, to engage the drama, to be patient with failure, to learn that true tolerance is not about excusing sin, but bearing burdens and being willing to walk with someone, to take a long journey. Breaking the fallow ground of my heart, uprooting the weeds of intolerance is a desire I have right now.
If I repent to the degree in which I truly believe that, if I authentically live that, I think I would have the relationships I need and desire. True friendship is always a sharing of equals…I am the same…I am the chief.
It feels very good to the heart to love other people. I have felt God’s love for other people, and it is bliss. I wish I would remember that when I am angry, or hurt, or snubbed, or misunderstood, or ignored. I wish I would remember that when I see someone laying by the side of the road naked and sick, their sin exposed, ugly, and repulsive. I wish I was more like Mother Teresa,
Every person is Christ for me,
and since there is only one Jesus,
that person is the one person in
the whole world at the moment.
One person in the whole world. Do others feel that way when I am with them? A man that hath friends must show himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
Loving my neighbor can be a sterile act disguised by mannerly exchanges. There is nothing much worse than being treated kindly, but held at arms length. I have been done this way. I have done this myself. I have been extremely friendly to you with no intention of being your friend. And my heart breaks at admitting that. I want my manners and friendliness to be genuine and truthful, no guile. I want to be trusted and relied on. I want to be a friend.
Like my Mama used to tell me, “If you want friends, go be a good friend.”
Just something I am pondering, thinking about as I begin a new year…a new opportunity to be a good friend and neighbor.