Earlier this week I wrote a bit about found communities and chosen families over at Relyn’s blog.
And I wrote about it from my experience of finding community and friendship, sometimes in unlikely places, and at unlikely times.
But I realize that not everyones experience of friendship and community is like mine.
I realized it again while having pie Saturday night with 6 lovely, funny, kind ladies.
We ate pie and french fries and spoke truth, and listened gently and laughed until we cried.
Our waitress kept asking if we were part of an official group. Were we in town for a conference? Were we part of a club? Did we work together?
“No, we are just all friends” we said.
To which she replied “I wish I had this many friends. I just have my mom and my kids.”
I wanted to take her home right then.
Or move to her town and be her friend.
Or at least drive the 3 hours to her town once a month for pie.
It broke my heart.
But it is not the first time I have heard this sort of statement recently.
Not the first time I have wanted to scoop someone up and adopt them into my tribe.
When I was in my early twenties I met a gal named Amy at church.
We had few coffees, shared some fries (yes, I am seeing a trend here..,) and attended a conference together.
In the beginning it was awkward. I thought we had nothing in common. I was pregnant, she was starting her doctorate. He life was fairly corporate and mine was highly domestic. Her hair was always perfectly coiffed, mine was always a mess. We should have never become friends.
But circumstances pushed us together enough that there was the slightest spark of friendship. Our lives looked very different, but on the inside we were very similar. We had a lot of the same questions about faith, the same interest in books, coffee and learning. But still we were just “church friends.”
Until she sent me the card.
And in the card it said this: Will you be my real friend? Check Yes or No.
I checked yes. And the deal was sealed. We were now real friends.
I have longed admired Amy’s bravery and vulnerability in sending me that card.
For taking a chance, for opening her hand to show me her heart, for taking the risk of letting me break it, on the slim chance that instead I would help her care for it.
She didn’t have to ask me. She could have just let things be as they were- casual, gliding on the surface. In fact everything in our culture tells us that tenderness is the enemy, and that vulnerability is for suckers, so who could blame her if she had?
The growth of my tribe, over the years between college and now, is full of moments like this. Moments where I, or the other person, has held out a hand and opened it up, revealing a tender part of ourselves to the other for care.
For a year and a half in college I lived in a private room. I was on the same hallway as several good friends, but I spent many, many evenings alone in that room, waiting on someone to call. To say “why are you alone? Come down to our room!” I kept waiting to be wanted.
It wasn’t until Sweet Man and I moved to a new town, joined a new church, and I became friends with Amy that I realized how I had played a part in my loneliness.
It was only then that I realized that most people are waiting to be wanted.
These days I try not to sit around waiting to be wanted.
Instead, I try to be brave and tender, like Amy was all those years ago.
I try to see that need in others and meet it.
I try to erase their aloneness as much as I can.
But in order to do this authentically, in order to do this in a way that doesn’t feel like I am trying to earn holiness points, I have to also allow them to erase parts of my aloneness as well.
I have to open my hand and share some tender bits of my heart with the understanding that no one owes me kindness in return.
Otherwise it is all works and no love.
Otherwise, “Concern” turns to judgement and “truth” turns to condemnation. And I am just an annoying, goody-two-shoes, gonging mess, wrecking havoc in the name of “loving my neighbor.”
For me, if I am going to love honestly, if I am going to actively choose to be in relationship with others, I have to remain vulnerable, authentic, transparent. I must be willing to be chosen as well.
I must live from a place of humility and gratefulness for each and every person that chooses to check my YES box, every person who chooses me back.*
So, if you do not have a tribe yet, and you would like one, perhaps you could think and pray on how to start one. How to be the one to stop waiting, to gather all your bravery and tenderness, and step out to say “will you be my friend?”
*(I feel like I need to say somewhere, somehow, that I am not in any way addressing abusive relationships, or advocating that people stay in them because “it is what Jesus would do.” What I am talking about here has to do with safe people and safe relationships. Initially awkward friendships, with potentially awkward people? Yes. Abusive friendships with abusive people? NO. )
** All these pictures were taken at the St Scholastica Monastery