Adult Friendships: Better than Waffles?

Many of us spend a significant amount of our younger adult lives overcoming our childhood for a variety of reasons, while a smaller percentage must continue to strive to feel well-rounded, put together, and somewhat whole well past our 30’s. It’s sometimes difficult for those in that smaller percentage to even feel like you’re really an adult despite the number of candles on your cake when you have those moments, those days, or even sometimes those weeks where you feel small, insecure, and insignificant. Honestly, I often wonder if any adults ever really feel whole or grown up. There are some that certainly seem like it and I admire them immensely….but does everyone get these moments where they just can’t seem to figure out their role or their place in a world of people that seem to be thriving?

I have my moments certainly where I do some amazing rockstar things and feel unstoppable. Those times where I just can’t help but smiling when I think back on them because for those moments I used my God-given strengths to shine and it felt amazing. I hate that those moments feel unbalanced on the scale against the weight of doubt. Am I making the right choices in this season of my life? Am I where I am supposed to be or did I take a wrong turn somewhere? What more could I be doing that I am not doing? Do the people who seem to care about me really, genuinely care or do they just need something from me?

That last one especially plagues me.

It’s hard to be the one who chooses to be open when it’s so ridiculously hard to remain open. Safety is in closing off. Remaining guarded. Keeping a safe distance. Weighing risks. Approaching slowly. To choose to open yourself up to someone is to willing subject yourself to the highly likely risk of hurt or rejection.

I had a thought this week that sometimes my struggle seems to result from feeling like I oscillate between being a Leslie Knope and an April Ludgate (Park and Rec show for those of you who don’t know. Stop reading this and go watch it! It’s incredible).

Aside from our shared love for breakfast foods, Leslie Knope is the epitome of confidence in action, being an inspiration, and being an amazing friend.

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The thing is….Leslie is the friend everyone wants, but also the friend no one knows how to be or how to let in. She is unashamedly passionate about her friends and doesn’t hold back how she feels.

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I 100% agree with her philosophy on friendship and yet she is the mirage of friendship – completely fictional! Friendships don’t really work this way do they? (especially in our 30’s and beyond, amiright?) For me, being that open comes at a very high price. I have taken this gamble before and lost big time, which makes it exponentially harder the next time to get up the nerve to take that risk again.

Which is what brings out my inner April Ludgate.

April despises small talk, all things unauthentic, and prefers animals over people.

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She shys away – like we all so often do – from genuine intimacy. It makes her feel uncomfortable so she closes herself off. The thing we – and I – want (genuine connection) makes us uncomfortable because I think we either question if it’s truly genuine or because we’re weighing the amount of effort and risk it may require to form the connection.

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I will be honest… The combination of past wounds and a few gasoline-drenched, burned bridges have left me wondering if the effort and risk it takes to form long-lasting genuine connections with people is even worth it. It doesn’t help at all when you remove forced social situations like high school, college, and other venues where friendships are easily forged. The older we get the harder making genuine connections with people becomes; it honestly becomes awkward and makes me feel awkward. Isn’t there a happy middle place out there between the unattainable friendship bar Leslie Knope sets and the people-hating, closed off persona of April Ludgate? Or am I the only one that can’t seem to find that middle ground?

Whatever the answer, I am thankful for the genuine connections I have been lucky to find and the depth of friendships that have come out of those connections. When forming new connections, I will continue to feel awkward and insecure as I approach the risk the openness required for those connections necessitates…. But I can handle a little insecurity, a whole lot of awkwardness, and even some hurt if it means that there’s a chance that those connections can begin to form with the people who are worth it….

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The Answer to Why: When We Cannot See Clearly

One of my absolute favorite moments in the entire Chronicles of Narnia series is found in the book “The Horse and His Boy.” The voice of Aslan is having a conversation with Shasta about who He is and some circumstances that had transpired:

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and-“
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.”
And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

It may seem strange that this is one of my favorite moments in the series, but it so beautifully captures the multi-faceted nature of God and how little our understanding is of the bigger picture of our lives. God is the God who binds and heals and we love that side of God. Yet, on the other side of the coin, God is the God who wounds and “tears to pieces” so that He may heal us. Not just the God who “allows bad things” but a fierce and passionate God who actually wounds us in order than He may heal us to become more like Him.

Oh, how I am learning this right now!

I don’t know about you, but when you’re going through the very middle of a hard time all you can think about is your pain and start grasping at ways to make it stop. Did I do something to bring this on myself? Is this a punishment? Why is this happening to me? What sequential steps should I take to make it stop? How long will this pain last? 

It is easy to lose hope when the circumstances of your life seem to become a perfect storm that threatens to drown you forever. I am convinced that the absolute hardest thing to do is to face your difficult circumstances head on with a heart that is aching from exhaustion and tears streaming down your face and remember that God is good.

We don’t know why life can get so painful for us sometimes and not ever seem that way for others, but this is your story – not someone else’s. Whether you’ve always struggled with things people seem to manage so easily, or whether you have always struggled financially no matter how hard you’ve tried, or whether you’ve been single for so long and feel so lonely when you’re a great catch who just wants someone to share life with, or whether you suffer from a physical sickness and don’t feel like you did anything to deserve it, or whether you’ve unexpectedly lost a loved one and losing them seemed and felt so utterly pointless, or whether – like me – you long for a child of your own when it seems like every drunken teenager and drug addict you encounter is getting pregnant these days. But there is a bigger picture. You don’t know someone else’s story and neither do I.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as God sees us, knowing him directly just as He knows us!” – 1 Corinthians 13:12, The Message

Isn’t that the ultimate prize? More than the financially stability we wish for, more than the spouse we long for, more than the baby we ache for – to know God and have a deeper, more committed personal relationship with Him is the answer to everything we’re searching for and the ultimate goal of this life. This life and all it’s blessings are temporary and just a shadow of the One who made us and calls us to know Him.

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I spoke recently in Florida with a friend who said that looking back she was grateful for their struggle with infertility. She said she never would have even pictured herself saying such a thing when she was going through it. She always just wished it away and yearned for a pregnancy/baby to take away her sorrow and struggle. Yet, during that time, she explained that she grew closer to God than she ever was before. Her struggle with infertility deepened her faith and has become part of her testimony. Now that she has come through it and is out on the other side, she said she wouldn’t go back and change anything because knowing God and trusting Him more was worth every tear, every dark night of the soul, and every disappointed hope.

I’ve never heard something more beautiful and more encouraging.

In contrast, the countless people who have told me to just “Stay positive,” “Don’t stress,” or “Believe you’re healed and you will be” – that advice, although laced with good intentions, fell short of doing anything more than isolating me further. How can you paste on a smile while you’re choking down tears? Is that even normal? How do you not stress when every single deviation from normal in your body makes you wonder if you’re pregnant? And despite my unwavering and solid faith that God is The Healer, it doesn’t mean that 24 cycles of wishing and hoping with no resulting pregnancy have simply been a result of me just. not. believing. enough. That’s ridiculous.

How much more beautiful is it to simply respond to God from the reality of exactly where we are…. our anger, our pain, our bitterness, our weeping, and my poly-cystic ridden, hormonally-jacked-up body that betrays my greatest longing every single month. The invitation to cry out to God in our pain and confusion, confess our despair and faltering faith, and beg for peace and a greater faith despite circumstances is what drives us closer to Him and brings Him the most glory.

We only have our story to live and we won’t always understand it or know the answers to our biggest question: “WHY?!” – but God is still good. He sees the bigger picture and invites us to wait, to hope, and to trust.