I’ve had some friends call me out recently.
“You change the subject when you don’t want to answer a question.”
“You withdraw when you’re struggling.”
And here I thought I was being smooth. Not so.
There was a part of me that figured they couldn’t be bothered with all the grisly details. I assumed they wanted to hear, “I’m fine, thank you. And you?” the way you respond to strangers in the grocery store when your eyes meet over a crowded apple bin. But they didn’t, because like I said, they’re my friends. To tell you the truth, I think I’ve shared more about myself with folks in the grocery store—“My budget can’t handle these prices!” “Hubby usually does the shopping, so would you help me find the beef jerky?” “Ooh, tell me how you cook that. Mine always comes out bitter.”
Now that I think about it, I’ve probably shared more with all y’all.
Yes, there’s a part of me that seeks to protect my friends from me, but what about the part that protects me from them? This side wants to jettison tough questions altogether and not merely employ evasive maneuvers. That’s the Robin who wants to post the “after” pictures and not the “before” or “during,” the fearful me who expects rejection, the one who’s always giving encouragement even though she desperately needs to hear it. Turns out, however, that’s the Robin my friends want to talk to—the whole me, Dr. and Mrs. Hyde. The good, bad, and the ugly one. They’re more than willing to pick me up this time and strong enough to let me carry them the next.
Why? Because they love me. And to return that love, I need to let them in, to invite them to take a giant step off the welcome mat and through my open door. They care enough about me to tell me so.
This is the same way I need to let in Jesus, Who stands there patiently and persistently knocking. I must let it all hang out, surrender all, like we sing in church. It’s time to be vulnerable, show my tender underbelly, come clean….which builds relationship between Him and me. When Jesus entreats, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,” I shouldn’t change the subject by talking about other people’s problems, sharing other folks’ weaknesses, or telling Him just what I think about what He’s (not) doing in my life. I need to rest. (Matthew 11:28) I should draw near with my problems and praise, and He will draw near to me. (James 4:8) After all, He’s well aware of the hurt, sadness, and sin I’m hoarding. Pain is like money: the more I bank, the more it accrues, growing interest exponentially. God invites me to divest myself of it all by giving it to Him.
Sure, as my Father and Friend, He calls me out just like my friends did, correcting, disciplining, and discipling me because He loves His own, infinitely. (2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 12:6) Yet, loving me intimately means God knows all the yucky middle parts I like to keep to myself because He planned my end before He created my beginning; there’s nothing God hasn’t seen, felt, or experienced, so I can’t scare Him off by showing my true self—and I don’t mean the “me” in orange rollers beneath my satin cap or the one without my ever-present lipstick. I’m talking about the “me” I don’t even rightly know. While I don’t like feeling vulnerable, exposed, and defenseless, humbling myself in my earthly relationships prepares me to kneel before God. It announces to my friends, “You can trust me”; it informs God, “I trust You.”
Indeed I can trust Him, though He’s never sipped coffee in my kitchen or told me His prized blueberry muffin recipe. According to 1 John 4:12, 13, that matters not: “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” And by God’s grace, my friendships abide, evidenced by the way we pick up right where we left off ten minutes ago or ten years ago, through our shared, silent look that reassures, “Mmm-hmmm…You see that? Don’t worry. I’ve got you.”—and with my heartfelt confession of “Right now, I’m struggling.” I’m grateful God holds together our precious, flame-kissed friendships, gifts from Jesus Christ, “whom having not seen [we] love.” (1 Peter 1:7, 8)
So, I’m grateful for their friendly fire. It burns, but they prove themselves ever faithful (Proverbs 27:6). These relationships constantly point me to Christ, reminding me how I am with Him and in Him: trusting and trustworthy; forgiving and forgiven; loved and loving; willing to bare all and striving to bear all.
Why? Because Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15: 13-15)