October 20, 2016

When There is Unexplained Distance in a Friendship

A few years ago, one of my friendships disintegrated, and it was largely my fault. For the world, friendship disintegration may involve screaming matches or slanderous accusations, but for Christian women, it typically means going radio silent or slowly distancing ourselves from relationships we once considered close. We think, in doing so, we're being "nice", because this route avoids gossip and stirring up unnecessary conflict, but in fact it is as equally hurtful as a spoken wounding word. In fact, it may be more hurtful, because in the silence, we leave others with many unanswered questions and inflamed insecurities.
My friendship disintegrated in this pattern, and I was the one who pulled away in the guise of niceness. This friend and I are polar opposites in personality, but we also have many commonalities: a love of Jesus, dreams for our families, and a passion for ministry to women. She was, to me, sharpening iron, but she sharpened me in ways I didn't particularly want to be sharpened. Sometimes that sharpening hurt and I took offense, but I didn't say anything to her about it. I didn't ask for clarification, didn't seek understanding, and didn't give the benefit of the doubt, but instead I slowly distanced myself from her.

I was asked about this in various refrains from blog readers:

  • I have a friend who has drifted away and I don't know why. Do I forgive her and just let it go or do I tell her that I am hurt by our friendship drifting away?
  • I'm mourning a friendship. I've done everything I know to do to make peace but the relationship no longer exists in the deep and intimate way it once did. How do I continue to love her while mourning how it's changed?
In my friendship, I was the drifter, the one who left a mourner in my wake. Somewhere along the way, I gave myself permission to give up on our relationship. 

After much distancing between us, my friend came to me in gentle conversation to call me on it. If you want to know the truth, I wasn't ready for that conversation; I wasn't ready to listen. I still had my personal excuses as to why distance was okay. 

Several months later, through the simple yet piercing question of another friend, God convicted me that distancing was not "nice" but rather a willed wounding. After all, this wasn't a woman who had moved away or whose schedule made it difficult for us to see one another. That would be a natural distancing. This was an emotional distancing, a hurtful distancing, and I'd willfully chosen it, primarily because I didn't want to have a hard conversation. I hadn't wanted to share how her words had touched some sensitive parts of me, how I'd felt misunderstood, how I'd been hurt. I didn't want to have to go through the sharpening that working through challenges in our relationship might require. So I'd just walked away. 

I couldn't ignore the Lord's conviction, however, so I called her up and asked if we could talk face-to-face. She came over, sat on the couch with me, listened, and forgave. We confessed all the crazy thoughts, insecurities, and assumptions we'd made about one another in the silence between us, and I think we came to a better understanding of and a deeper compassion for one another. The only way to that point was through a hard conversation.

God put her in my life specifically for the sharpening. I learned that lesson almost too late, but I learned it nonetheless. I looked back at my life in acknowledgement that, typically, when someone in my life makes me feel uncomfortable, my knee-jerk reaction is to avoid them. I need to consider instead if God has them in my orbit for a reason. 

But the primary lesson I've taken away from my restored friendship is this: There are times when I need to have hard conversations. All of those many months of hurt could have been avoided entirely if I'd been open and direct. I've often believed that avoiding the hard conversations is the right way because it's avoiding potential division or will be unnecessarily hurtful. I've come to realize that avoiding the hard conversations is actually loving myself and my own safety and comfort more than it is loving other people in the way Christ would have me love them. 

Christians, especially in friendship, avoiding the hard conversations is far more wounding than having them! And I believe that our inability or refusal to have biblical hard conversations is one of our greatest weaknesses in the Church as a whole. In most situations that women come to me for counsel--a discipleship relationship is falling apart, a friend unintentionally wounded them, a relationship is causing them consternation, there is frustration over a church decision--my first question is, "Have you gone to that person and talked to them about it?" This is typically the last thing they want to hear; they want any solution that allows them to avoid addressing the problem head-on.

Yes, there are many instances when offenses must be overlooked. Not everything needs to be addressed. We are imperfect people in an imperfect Church. However, we can know that we need to have a hard conversation, as opposed to overlooking an offense, if we find ourselves having imaginary conversations with a person, avoiding them, or talking to everyone else but the person about the situation.

In the many months when I attempted to distance myself from my friend, I made many excuses for myself. I can't be friends with everyone. I don't have to be friends with everyone. This relationship is too challenging to be a good friendship. I should have recognized these thoughts as red flags. I have since gone back through them to consider if it's ever okay to walk away from a friendship, and I've come to the conclusion that there are very few times when that's appropriate. I believe God places people in our lives for our good and our sanctification and the people we often want to distance ourselves from are the ones we probably need the most. Of course, we can't be close friends with everyone, but we can certainly honor everyone and learn from everyone we encounter. Radio silence and distancing are not a form of honor and humility.

So for those asking questions related to this topic, here's what I've learned: 

If you feel distance in a friendship and you don't know why, consider having the hard conversation, but do so carefully. 
  • Do it in person, not over text or email. 
  • Do it only after much thought and prayer as to what specifically needs to be addressed.
  • Do it--this is the hard part--for the sake of the other person and with a goal of restoration. That's what my friend did for me. She helped me see myself by showing me how I was wounding her. She did it out of love for me and in an attempt to reconcile our relationship, not from a place of expectation. 
  • Do it with a readiness to forgive but also a readiness to listen. Are you prepared to hear if the friend's distance is because of how you hurt them? 
  • Do it with your trust in the Lord, not in expectation of a specific response from your friend. The relationship may not be fully restored or may be different than it was before. The friend may not be ready for the conversation. Have the hard conversation with Romans 12:18 in mind: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Do what you can do, do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, and trust Him for the rest.

Is there someone you need to have a hard conversation with? Is there someone you are distancing yourself from emotionally? What would God say to you about it today?

In my forthcoming book, I asked the friend I've written of here to join me in telling our story. We go into much more detail about how it all fell apart and how God put us together again. Preorder your copy of Messy Beautiful Friendship by clicking on the image below. 

October 12, 2016

Why Does Friendship At Times Feel One-Sided?

I was asked, "Why does friendship at times feel one-sided?" That question, of course, could mean many different things: why must I do all the work? Why is that one person in my life not reciprocating my overtures of friendship? Or: why is no one reaching out to me or helping me? I feel invisible.

No matter the exact meaning of the question, I understand the frustration behind it. It's so disheartening when we make ongoing efforts to extend friendship to other women and find them met with what appears to be apathy or, worse, disinterest. Sometimes it's not even that we feel hurt by one-sided friendship but rather we've just grown weary of it--the work and the feeling of responsibility in our relationships.
Believe you me, I understand. Simply by marrying a man called into ministry, I've been thrust into a wonderful and weird role that is much more weird than wonderful when it comes to friendship. Everything I'm about to say about this is said matter-of-factly, without complaint, and with a full embrace of where God has me: many of my relationships are one-sided. Not all, but many. I'm saying this only to say that I can speak to this. Many people believe the pastor's wife is surrounded by friends and has no trouble in this area. The truth is, there is much to navigate and one of the toughest is the feeling of being the responsible party in many one-sided relationships. It can be difficult to know with confidence that I am accepted and valued apart from my role, my performance, and how I make other people feel.

Now, here's what I'm learning from other women who are not pastor's wives: it's no different for them! Most of us are navigating many one-sided relationships, and this is very much a part of life as a Christian. We are called to love others, serve them, and lay our lives down. The narrative arc of the New Testament is that the believer is an initiator who is constantly moving toward others to meet needs. This, of course, is done in imitation and in honor of Christ, who really knows what "one-sided" looks like. The only way we can remain unjaded and unoffended in our relationships is to look to Him and know the extent to which He went to prove His love for us. That can help us keep putting ourselves out there for a lifetime.

Notice I haven't been using the word friendship but rather relationships. The majority of our relationships are likely going to be one-sided and sacrificial (parenting children, work relationships, blessing our neighbors, serving in the church), but should friendship look any different? Yes and no. Friendship will not ever be a 50/50 partnership. Sometimes women, due to stage of life or difficult circumstances, don't have the capacity to reciprocate friendship in ways we'd prefer. We may have an opportunity to serve a friend for season upon season who is just trying to keep her head above water and has nothing to offer us in return. These opportunities are blessings; friendship is not about keeping score.

However, friendship is mutual. I've thought about this a lot. The mutuality is how we know someone is a friend. In my role as a pastor's wife, I get to talk with a lot of women, and I absolutely love doing so, but because of this I've also had difficulties at times knowing who my friends actually are and who I can turn to when I need help. I finally realized that the distinguishing mark is mutuality. These women don't have to mirror my every word and action, but there is a genuine returned interest in who I am as a person.

Let's be honest: for all of us, this is going to be a small list of people. In fact, it may not be a list at all but rather just one person. And that one person is imperfect and will not reciprocate in all the ways we want at all times. I think this is where we often stumble: we think everyone else's list is really long and everyone is out there doing all the things with all the people and laughing and giggling and having the time of their lives. Everyone else feels accepted and as if they belong, and we're the losers sitting over in the corner waiting to be noticed. In reality, people are busy and when they hang out together there are a whole lot of acrobatics involved in making it happen. For a friendship to have evolved into a solid and easy place, it's probably happened through awkwardness and lots of lots of years. We're all in the same boat, is what I'm saying, pastor's wife or not, married or single, childless or with child, introvert or extrovert.

So what can we do when we feel friendship is one-sided? Here's what I do:

  • Ask myself: is it friendship or a relationship? Either way, as a Christian, I'm called to go toward others with love and acts of service, but if I'm calling it friendship when it is consistently not mutual, I may need to release some expectations--of that person and sometimes even of myself.
  • Mutual friendships are gems: rare and often hidden. Sometimes, in looking for friends, I keep going back to the same place over and over again with certain ideas and categories in mind of what that gem will look like and where it'll be discovered. I may need to expand my horizons and mine different places: women in different ages and stages, for example.
  • I look for what is given rather than for what's not. Sometimes, for example, I leave a conversation frustrated at how one-sided it was and I can start down a rabbit-trail of self-pity and resentment. I've learned to stop and consider what in the conversation blessed me. Perhaps she entrusted me with part of her story or paid for my coffee. She may not have asked me a question (my love language), but she probably showed some form of love and friendship. I just have to look for those small acts and thank God for them. I think having a gracious spirit rather than a critical one (something knowing God's love toward me has helped change in my own heart) toward other women goes a long way, because only then can we appreciate and receive small acts of friendship as gifts rather than being demanding, having unrealistic expectations, and keeping score. Other women can sense these unspoken demands and will back away, and then we're really in for some one-sided relationships.
  • Finally, and this is a doozy, I need to consider if I'm making my needs known to others. I am the queen of being hard to know (my Myers Briggs profile says that I am a mystery even to myself...ha!) and I very much resist asking for help. I've found at times that friendship feels one-sided because I've expected others to just know what I want or need. Am I even giving people the opportunity to reciprocate? 

What about you? How would you answer this question? What has helped you navigate relationships that feel one-sided? 

October 5, 2016

What I Learned About Friendship From My Military Friends

My family and I live in a transient place: Charlottesville, Virginia. When we moved here from Texas to plant a church, we didn't realize just how transient it is. This city is so transient that my first question when I meet a visitor at our church is, "Are you new to the area?" If the answer isn't yes, it's typically that they've moved here within the past year or two. Not only is Charlottesville an undergraduate college town--home to the University of Virginia--but it also attracts law students, graduate business students, and medical residents and fellows. There is one group of people, however, I was surprised to encounter so much of when we first moved here: military families. We get JAG lawyers, as well as current and former military folks who work at a national intelligence center just outside of town.
Most people live in Charlottesville for a few short years, so at eight years and counting, we're longtime residents of the city. We've seen many beloved military personnel come and go in those eight years, most of them here for only one or two, and nearly all of them have left a profound mark on my family and our church. They are, as a group, energetic, optimistic, servant-hearted, and get-it-done kind of people. But perhaps the most impactful lesson I've learned from them is about friendship.

Here's what I see: these military families bounce from place to place every few years. They start over constantly, always having to find a new doctor and dentist and also having to find a new church family. They settle into a home that they know they'll be leaving in as little as a year, possibly more, but oftentimes they don't even know when they'll be relocated and where. Many of them tell me when they first move to a new spot, especially one without a base, there is a sense of immediate distance when they share they're military, as if the locals have already decided they can't be friends with a short-termer. 

I've tried to put myself in their shoes, considering what it'd be like to be so transient. It appears to me that community and friendship would be difficult. I'd find it challenging to open my heart to people that I know I'd be leaving so soon. I'd likely struggle with frustration and discontentment at having my life uprooted so frequently. But in reality, that's not what I see from them. My military friends astound me at the way they just jump right in to their new community. They hit the church-ground and the friend-ground running, as if to suck out the marrow of wherever they are before time runs out and they're on to a new adventure. Whereas I imagine myself being closed off, they are instead extremely open and eager in relationships with others. I find this fascinating.

Honestly, I've needed this lesson from my military friends regarding friendship. Sure, I can make all kinds of excuses as to why I don't have time with friends or energy for friends or whatever. My calendar and life are filled to the brim, I'm a pastor's wife, blah blah blah. But if I have excuses, my military friends have more, and they don't seem to be playing them. What gives?

It seems the ticking clock gives my military friends a sense of purpose and urgency that motivates them to take action and move outward rather than just waiting for something to happen to them or for them. They don't have time for waiting. Perhaps also they've met so many different people from different places and backgrounds that they've found out how fascinating people can be when they really get to know them. Finally, it seems they have a sense of freedom regarding friendship. The job has forced them to learn the secret of lasting friendship: that each one is a gift from God to enjoy but not to be held too tightly.  

If I ever move again, I want to be like my military friends and act wisely but quickly: get in a church and jump right into serving and getting to know people, seek out friendship with people who are different than me, make time for it as if the clock is ticking down, enjoy it. 

Wait, what am I saying? If I ever move again.. 
Doesn't God have me here in this city for His purposes? Am I somehow different from my military friends? Do I hold a clock that's not ticking? Why do I use my excuses to my own detriment? In other words, what is stopping me from just jumping right in and going for it right now?

What's stopping you?
Friends, you may have noticed that I'm writing posts about friendship this fall in preparation for the launch of my forthcoming book, Messy Beautiful Friendship, which I absolutely cannot wait for you to read. (Read the Introduction here.) In the next few weeks, I'd like to write posts based on questions you have regarding friendship. What do you want to talk about? Loss of friendship? Hurts? Practical tips? The weird combination of friendship and ministry? You tell me and I'll tackle it. Email me your questions or leave them in the comments below. 

September 28, 2016

How Friendship and Longing Go Hand-in-Hand

In the past year, several of my friends have left our church. A few have moved away, as have many before them left this transient town we call home. One friend, who was more like a mentor, died from cancer, a devastating blow to all who knew her. One friend left by choice, and although all is well between us, it has a hardness of its very own. 

None of these are not my friends anymore, even the one I will not see again in this life. They are all gifts, just not gifts I get to enjoy as much as I'd like. 

I am not good with change, and I'm not good with the impermanence of life. I want my friendships to feel perfect: perfectly given, perfectly received, and perfectly enjoyed all the live-long time. I work hard at friendship, so I want to keep them just how they are. I don’t want anything to change. I fear disappointment or being the disappointer. I don’t like when a friendship changes, when people relocate or make decisions that are wise but also affect the time we can spend together. I don’t like feeling distance or being separated from a friend. I don’t like knowing that the demands on my time and personal responsibilities keep me from being able to be a perfect friend. I’m also quite discontent giving new friendships time, space, and grace to develop.
I suppose I am a mother hen. I want to gather all my friends, safe and happy, under my wings. I long for that. And I try desperately to avoid the feeling of change or separation. Perhaps I try to avoid the sense of longing, because I so often associate longing with lack.

Last year, I hosted a going away party for my friend Kate, who relocated with her family to a different state. We had a time of blessing and commissioning for them, but I honestly was in a fog of denial throughout the party. I knew it was happening—they were moving a little over a week after the party—but if I didn’t think about it maybe then everything would magically stay the same. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt.

I asked Kate about her own feelings. She said she felt a lot of fear about moving, because her friendships would be severed in a way that’s not her choice. It’s a hurt she couldn’t control. The losses felt really deep, because she knew how hard it was to maintain friendships with people right in front of her, but it would be even harder when they were thousands of miles away. She said she really wasn't looking forward to moving, because there weren’t any easy answers, and she’d have to let go of where she’s been in order to invest where she was going. 

I didn’t want her to go, because I was afraid that our relationship would change. And you know what? It did. I can't meet her for coffee or have her and her family over for dinner. I can’t watch her kids grow up, the kind of watching that’s mostly unaware because you see them every week. Instead, I’ve watched them grow up in giant spurts in pictures. 

I hate change. I hate that Kate moved away; she’s one less good friend I have in my daily life when good friends are already so hard to come by. And then I think about who else has moved away and  wonder who’s going to be next and then close my heart a little. 

I know, though, that I’m afraid of the actual longing, because I know too well what it’s like to live with longing. I remember those years-long stretches when I willed myself to not get sick because I had no one I could call to take care of my babies if I did. I remember walking through difficult and dark days and not knowing to whom I could turn. I know what it’s like to be lonely and to grieve what once was. I know what it’s like to wonder if you’ll ever have a friend again. I simply do not like in-my-face reminders that tell me longing doesn’t go away, that I’m intended to live with longing. I’d like to ignore the part about friendship that never will be perfect and stationary, the part about friendship that necessitates living with longing. 

We all know that feeling, because part of friendship is living with longing, and I don’t mean just longing for a friend when you aren’t sure you have any. A right and biblical perspective on life leaves us in an in-between place where all is made right and fulfilled because of Christ and all is waiting for that ultimate fulfillment to become tangible and visible. Friendship is included in that in-between, because, although we are reconciled and united by Christ, we continue to relate to one another through the fog of flesh, sin, separation, and death. 

There is an inevitable hint of sadness to friendship, because try as we may to perfect and keep them, we simply can’t. This should lead us to an important question: Is our longing wrong? Should we not long for perfect community, intimacy, connection, and permanent reconciliation? I’ve asked myself that question, even as I’ve tried to keep all my friendships just so. 

Longing is wrong if it leads to idolatry of others, which leads further to control, manipulation, anger, or isolation. Longing is wrong when we corral it in the shapes of unrealistic wish-dreams and demand God’s submission to our desires.

But longing that seeks its end in the final redemption? This is a beautiful and freeing kind of longing, a longing to be embraced, because it turns our eyes pleadingly toward Christ’s return. At the final redemption, our friendships with other believers will actually become what we’ve always hoped they’d be: unmarred by spiritual blindness and selfish ambition, intimate and unchanging. Perfect.

It seems, then, that God Himself has implanted our longing, that our sense of incomplete friendship is a catalyst that leads us to anticipate a world beyond what we can now see and experience and friendships beyond what we can now see and experience. This right longing also underlies our ability to receive friendship—and this is so very important—because then we’re able to embrace present imperfections as gifts. 

If we want something other than this in our present lives, something other than imperfect, we don’t want friendship as God is giving it. 

I love how Dietrich Bonhoeffer approaches our longing: 
“Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ…The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity. That dismisses once and for all every clamorous desire for something more. One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which has has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood. Just at this point Christian brotherhood is threatened most often at the very start by the greatest danger of all, the danger of being poisoned at its root, the danger of confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship, of confounding the natural desire of the devout heart for community with the spiritual reality of Christian brotherhood." (Life Together, pages 21, 26)

And so, opening ourselves up to receive friendship involves living with longing, embracing the imperfectness of our relationships here, but also knowing and rejoicing in the fact that they are a taste of what is to come. That longing is not a feeling to avoid or mute; it must be an arrow that points us to something greater and to a time to come when we will enjoy perfect friendships.

We’re reminded again, because we’re prone to forget, that the Lord must remain firmly in the center of our friendships. He is not the filler until He gives us the friends we want. He is it—the end of all our longings. He is gracious to give us gifts beyond Himself, perhaps no greater gifts than the friends He’s given who enrich our lives.

Are you like me? Do you want to gather (and hoard) friends because you fear your underlying longing, that sense of incompleteness that’s never quite gone away? Have you believed that something is wrong with you because you just can’t seem to get this friendship thing down? Have you been wounded by the separation and distance brought on by the passage of time? Are you exasperated by your imperfect friendships? Perhaps our wish-dreams are making their appearance again. The difference between our wish-dreams and right longing is simply timing—now versus later.

Stop berating yourself that you can’t command life to get lined up perfectly. Embrace the longing by looking at it full in the face and letting it tilt your head toward what is to come. Embrace all that you have and all that you don’t as a gift from a good Father who knows what you need. 

Learn to live with the longing, all the while rejoicing that one day all of our longing will be completely fulfilled.

September 21, 2016

The One Thing You Need to Know In Order to Make Lasting Friendships

For children, friendship comes easily. They equate proximity, shared interests, similar age, and just knowing one another's name with friendship, and they relate to one another without a whiff of insecurity or navel-gazing.
As adults, we're the complete opposite. I've often wondered at this, because somewhere about the time I graduated from college, I became a ball of insecurity when it came to my friendships with other women. At times I wondered if I'd forgotten how to do friendship or if something was wrong with me. Sometimes I got my feelings hurt and wondered why other women were so difficult and scary and seemingly indifferent to me.

I say this as if it's in the past tense. In the present tense, I feel much less anxiety about friendship (and I hope I've matured a bit, too), but friendship is still just as complex and complicated as it was in the years after college. In fact, it may be more so in my stage of life.

Friendship is difficult. It just is. I hope that helps those of you who read my last post about initiating with other women and just saw one big linear formula (I go first = the start of a beautiful friendship every single time). I also hope that helps those of you who see people you admire on Instagram hanging out with all their cool friends doing cool things together, because friendship is difficult for everyone, including those women. Friendship doesn't just happen like it did when we were kids. It takes time and energy, patience, overlooking offenses, forgiveness, effort, risk, and, yes, even awkward initiation.

Friendship has never stopped being a difficult thing for me, but I want to tell you the underlying truth that has made it worth pursuing and given me persistence in my pursuit of new and longtime friends: Jesus loves me always and forever.

(Oh, here we go. The pastor's wife is bringing out the church answer.)

Before you click away, let me tell you what I mean. I have discovered that the only way I can go first with other women--invite, share, open up, welcome in--without also keeping score, demanding a similar response (if only internally), looking to them for a sense of worth and validation, or giving up altogether is when I find my security and identity in Jesus Christ. The only way I can continue to build and maintain friendships over the long haul, even though I've been hurt and I've hurt others as well, is to be tethered with deep security and assurance to the love of my Jesus.

See, what I've often done is wonder, "Am I loved?", and then seek out others with that question mark, looking to their response for the answer. In the guise of seeking friendship, my insecurities have led me to instead seek approval from others, which is too heavy of a need for a limited person to meet when we're meant to seek our security in God alone. We crush other women with our need to be liked and accepted, because what they do give is never enough. Because it wasn't meant to be enough.

But I've also done something else equally disastrous: I have been internally demanding of other women. I've wanted them to befriend me in a certain way, know me with perfect understanding, relate with me in a specific way, and be there at the exact moment I need them. Whereas insecurities say, "I need something from you, and if I don't get it, I won't feel loved," expectations say, "I want something from you and if you don't give it to me, I won't love you." So then when they haven't given me the response I've wanted, you can imagine my heart's instinct: bitterness, judgment, and discontentment.

We simply cannot seek the good of others or bless others when we're seeking only what we can get from other women. This is why so many of us have given up on friendship or why we make snarky comments about women who appear to have easy friendships (which is, in reality, no one). We also shake our fist at God, wondering why the good Gift-giver has passed us over.

Jesus said, "Love others as I have loved you." The first and most important truth that tells us is that we are absolutely loved. He laid down His life to prove that to us, and His is a love that will not let us go. For those who are in Christ, we are anchored to it forever, secure. We are so tightly tethered to this love that someone else can ignore our attempts at friendship, someone can hurt our feelings, and still nothing about our approval and identity is changed.

If we're to imitate how Jesus loved, which is what He said we are to do, I think we have to first look at our definition of friendship. Is it about someone blessing us or is it about us blessing others? Is it about never being hurt by others or is it about repentance and reconciliation when we're hurt or have hurt others? Is it about taking up our rights and expectations or is it about laying down our lives for the sake of others? Jesus was an initiator, forgiver, and sacrificer, never a demander.

If I'm loved with that kind of love, my soul has what it needs, and I can go and do as He did. Does that make friendship easy? No, it's still complex and complicated. But the women around me are released from my neediness, demands, and expectations, and only then can I enjoy the gift of friendship as it was meant to be enjoyed.