Once They Were Friends

broken-plane-leaf 2


When I was little, I laid on my bed many nights and cried into my pillow for a friend.

But things are different now. Somewhere along the line, God allowed so many dear ones to spring up along my path. Now, if I’m crying into my pillow, it is more likely to be about the friends that I used to have.

Nearly every one of you, I suspect, has lost a friend.

A move across the country. A new school. A marriage. An argument. A choice.

There are very few things that scar a heart as much as a discarded friendship.

I’ve felt it.

There is helplessness, when despite all your love, they still fade away. There is anger, because how dare she just leave, after all these years? And, sometimes, there is guilt, because she wasn’t the only one who walked away, or kept holding a grudge.

So, what do we do? Shrug it off and move on? Close ourselves up? Choose better friends? Try to never say anything that might ever offend anyone?

If you’re recovering from a friendship-gone-awry, here are a few things to remember.8de599e2752979482266eae519018a25

1. If you’ve tried your best to reconcile, that’s all you can do.

Whether it was her “fault” or yours, it doesn’t matter. If you need to go to her and apologize–or offer forgiveness–do it.

But after you’ve humbly sought to restore the relationship and she still won’t have anything to do with you, you can’t do anything else.

Strike that. You can pray.

I know. That helpless feeling creeps over you and it feels like a prayer might be the most powerless thing you can imagine.

After you’ve confessed your sin or humbly offered restoration, keep living. Move forward. If you have God’s forgiveness, you have what you need to go on. By His grace, your friend may one day see the truth. Or she may not.

But after you’ve done your best, it’s okay to go on with life.

2. Love her from afar.

I could tell you to forget about her.

But you spent nights laughing till 3 in the morning with her. You saw each other at your best and worst. She holds some of your deepest secrets and knows your wildest dreams. She shares some of your most-valued beliefs. You’ve giggled on long car rides with the stereo cranked up, singing along to your favorite CD.

You’ve shared so much love and life.

And now that she’s gone, you miss her. And you probably always will.

Several years ago, I lost one of my best friends. It was sudden, drastic, and final. She dropped off the face of my world, without even a word to me. Others in her life received her hate-filled, backstabbing, anger. I didn’t even get a “Goodbye, I don’t want to be your friend anymore.” I didn’t even rate high enough for that.

The past 6 years of silence have not dimmed my memory. I haven’t seen her at all. A few reports from other friends, a few added sorrows when I hear of the suffering her choices have caused. And you know what? I still love her desperately.

Maybe I don’t cry myself to sleep like I did when she first left. Maybe I’m not picking up the freshly-shattered pieces of trust. But deep in my chest is an ache that is still there. I think it will always be there.

I never got a chance to try for reconciliation. I may not even cross paths with her again. But I have spent the last 6 years loving her from afar, smiling at her memory, tearing up a little at the old pictures of us in our cowgirl hats and bandanas, with the little-girl innocence that we both somehow lost. I can get lost a long time in the photos of her clear eyes, wondering where it all went wrong, wondering why I didn’t notice she was slipping away.

You lost a friend. You may not be in her life anymore.

But don’t stop loving her. She still needs your prayers. And you also need something — you need the bittersweetness of the memories you made together. Don’t throw out the gift she made you, or toss out the photo album of you two together. God gave you those moments, and they were full and true and sweet. Remember them. Savor them, however short.

3. Don’t become like her.

If the end of the friendship was her doing — if you’ve done your best to make things right — then you have been wronged terribly.

Whether it began as a silly argument, a drastic misunderstanding, or a sudden change in her personality, don’t let the hurt she inflicted on you make you bitter.

Friends have shared with me about the lost relationships that still weigh them down. Whether you live 200 miles away or cross paths with your former friend every week, you will still hurt. You’ll have different challenges to sort through, but you are still an abandoned friend.

And it hurts dreadfully.

Often, she is hurting too. It’s not an excuse, but it is the truth. As much as you’ve been hurt, remember that she is a person too, with a complex life and maybe surprising reasons behind her betrayal.

Forgive her. Whatever the reason — big, or small, or completely unknown — forgive her. As you were forgiven all those terrible things that Christ bore for you with joy, forgive her.

4. Relationships are complicated and hard and heartbreaking — and worth it.

You may not want to try again.

Sometimes I get so weary of the hard work of communicating and navigating misunderstanding, that I just want to hide. “People are so complicated,” I mutter. “Life would be so simple without people.” While I’d never want to actually try life without others, sometimes it seems that there are endless troubles wherever there is more than one person involved. It’s enough to drive a girl crazy.

Don’t let the scars keep you from loving again.

Because there are true friends to be found. They will take effort, trust, maintenance, forgiveness, humility. But they exist.

Keep loving and reaching out. Friendship is worth it. So worth it.

Related Post: “Putting the ‘Forever’ in Friend”

5. When all else fails, Jesus knows.

I can say all sorts of true and sentimental things. But one thing remains.

He was having the worst night of his life. Off-the-charts stress. All His buddies were taking a nap when He needed their camaraderie the most. All except one.

That one was coming now, his pale face flickering in the approaching torch light. He was coming silently, standing between a pair of rough temple guards.

And that one friend walked straight up, mustered up his nerve, and kissed Him on the cheek.

Acclaimed writer Michael Card sings these words, words that resonate with everyone who has ever been betrayed:

“Why did it have to be a friend
Who chose to betray the Lord?
Why did he use a kiss to show them?
That’s not what a kiss is for.

Only a friend can betray a friend.
A stranger has nothing to gain,
And only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain.”

– from “Why” by Michael Card.

So when my words run out, my encouragement fails to touch the depth of your hurt, my sharing in your loss echoes empty, this truth can hold you up.

Jesus knows.

 He is not an untouched Stranger, a heavenly man who felt none of our pain. He took it all, tried it all, died bearing it all.

And God took on flesh and bared his face to the mocking kiss of a man who played at morality for 3 years, who put on a role for his own gain, who lived moment after moment in traitorous, silent scoffing at the works of the Christ he claimed to believe.

“And He’s kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone
All His friends are sleeping and He’s weeping all alone

And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain but the breaking does not”

– from “The Silence of God” by Andrew Peterson

So when you’re crying, alone in your bed, remembering that one-time friend…this is all I have to say.

He is not untouched. He knows. And His ears never weary of hearing our cries. His arms never tire of pulling off our burdens.

Once they were friends. Now we only remember.

But one Friend never fails. And thank God — thank God! — for that firm foundation, that soul-anchor.

Because, now, I can love without fear. Whether it is returned or not.


 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:38-39, KJV –

 

A Library Table, a Geneva Bible, and a Mormon

frost-on-leaves

We all have our own lives, our own families.

And, at least for me, it is easy to get caught up in personal things.

Keeping up with my part-time job, making shopping lists, dreaming up healthy menu plans, plowing through my reading list, doing chores around our small farm…

A small-time girl in a small-time town.

Not too long ago, a young friend of mine confided that she didn’t feel like she was having much of an impact on anyone. She attends a private high school, goes to church with her family, and enjoys looking after her two younger siblings. For her, life is full of routine — not much chance for lasting impact.

Maybe you’re there too? Wrapped in a round of everyday activities and occasional outings, wondering if there is something you’re missing. Wondering if you’re really making a difference on anyone or anything at all.

I understand.

There’s not really a secret to finding your “place of impact.” Nor is it necessarily a single place.

In the first place, my farm chores, and my friend’s church activities, and your “everyday” schedule are all places of impact.

Yes.

Even in front of your sink drying the 105th plate, or in class trying to scrounge up the tu form of a Spanish verb. Even up to your elbows in suds giving your little brother a bath, or when you’re alone in your room reading the next book on your shelf. Even when you’re singing your favorite song to yourself, or when you’re sliding in next to your mom on the church pew.

Or, in my case, when I went to the library on Friday with little more ambition than getting an audio book and putting in a few hours on my job.

It was my interest in history that did it.

As I sat there answering emails and researching educational companies, a girl around fifteen years old and a woman I assumed was her mother sat down across the table from me. I continued to work, and the girl soon got up to find a book. She returned a few moments later with a thick black book. A Bible. A very, very big Bible.

Nosy girl that I am, I craned my neck at the gold letters stamped on the front. Ah. That was it. It was a Geneva Bible.

The people across from me were studying the cover with curiosity. The woman made a comment to the girl about not knowing what a Geneva Bible was. I think she thought it was some cult Bible.

And there I went. I launched into my 9th grade Western Civilization speech: “The Geneva Bible was the Bible the Pilgrims used when they came to America. It was the common Bible before the King James Version, which was printed in 1611, came into common use.” I smiled and continued the spiel, with a condensed version of the invention of the printing press, the Protestant Reformation, and Henry VIII’s split from the Catholic church.

Both of them now looked at me with their curiosity. “You are either a history major or you go to church,” the woman said. Her husband came up and joined in on the discussion.

And from there, we jumped into a lengthy conversation about theology — the woman and her husband were Mormons, the girl (a neighbor of theirs, not a daughter) attended a Church of Christ. They had never heard of the Trinity in their lives. They didn’t believe Jesus is God in the flesh.

I spent the next hour or so outlining the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity, frantically praying and trying to dredge up all the verses I could think of that support my belief in the Trinity.

I left the library a while later, with two sets of addresses and phone numbers (the girl’s and the woman’s), having promised to send them copies of my blog posts, and feeling a good deal of awe at the sovereignty of God.

You see, I don’t usually do this. I don’t usually get into theological discussions over library tables.

I’ve often thought, “Oh, I don’t have an impact with that sort of thing. Conversations about Christianity don’t seem to come to me as naturally as others.”

But then God put a Mormon lady and a searching girl in my path.

Here’s the thing:

I didn’t know all the right verses. The things I had studied gave me a place to start, but I didn’t have the perfect speech. I had to poke around a little and figure out exactly “what kind” of Mormons they were. I was unsure.

But it was wonderful.

Because, you see, God led me right into the appointment He had planned for me. And the most beautiful thing was this: sitting behind that library table, my soul was crying out to God for wisdom, for answers, for the right words to help these people understand the truths that are so beloved to me.

Making an impact right then was not something I could do on my own. But it was something that God could do through me.

What things do you have to do that feel pointless, like you aren’t changing anything for the better? Believe me: nothing you do is without impact.

Other people are watching — they see our smiles that we forget about, our diligence when we’re “just doing what’s right.” People see. And God often uses those small-time things to change lives.

Like a conversation that started with a small-town library table and a thick Geneva Bible.

 

Of Resolutions and Revival

antique-bible

“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .”

― Charles H. Spurgeon ―


Recently, several friends of mine and I were talking about our desire to grow closer to God. It seems that the “cares of this life” sweep us up and we get distracted from the things that are most important.

I realized that we were probably not the only girls hoping for increased spiritual maturity in the next year. With all the resolutions and goals people often make at the start of a new year, some aspect of Christian growth may be at the top of your list in 2015 too!

Bible Reading

“Here, then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.” – R. C. Sproul

Ouch. Mr. Sproul has a point, and it is not a comfortable one. Could it be that amid all my busyness, projects, and responsibilities that laziness is at the root of my sometimes-lacking Bible reading?

Just. Do. It.

Nike may have claimed the phrase, but I think it fits my needs pretty well too. I have to sit down, open my Bible, and actually read.

I have to pray for the Holy Spirit to open my eyes and let me truly see His truth. I have to pray for desire to keep on reading when I’d rather say, “I don’t feel like studying the Bible today.” I have to pray that my obedience will bear the fruits of wisdom and joy. I have to “put feet” on my belief that I cannot go today, or tomorrow, or the next day without God’s grace and truth permeating my heart.

But, apart from “just do it,” there are a few resources I’ve discovered that encourage me to dig into my Bible reading:

One Year Reading Plans

There are a lot of ways to read through the Bible in a year. Both biblestudytools.com and biblegateway.com have multiple one year plans that you can use to guide you through your entire Bible in a year!

These sites also have reading plans for focusing on particular books or topics, or, if you’re really up for a challenge, read the Bible in 90 days instead of 365!

This year, I got a One Year Chronological Bible for Christmas, and I am loving it. Not only is the Bible organized into daily readings, but the books are placed in chronological order. It is so neat to see how the genealogies line up between Genesis and 1 Chronicles (and realize that Noah was still alive when Abraham was born–who knew?), or read in Acts about where Paul was staying while he wrote the letter to the Ephesians. There are non-chronological One Year Bibles too, in a variety of translations.

Audio Bibles

During a recent short-term job, I found that an audio Bible was perfect to listen to while I put on makeup, ate breakfast, and packed my lunch for the day. I’d often follow along in my Bible while munching my cereal. Here are two of my favorite audio Bibles:

dailyaudiobible.com – This one is free, with the options of (1.) a daily Psalm, (2.) a daily Proverb, or (3.) a daily reading that will get you through the whole Bible in a year. Brian Hardin reads the passage from a translation chosen for the week, so sometimes I don’t care for some of the looser paraphrases he choses, but overall I really enjoy Daily Audio Bible! And did I mention it is free?

thewordofpromise.com – This one can be purchased on CD or MP3, but it is SO worth it. With dozens of voice actors, dramatic music, and sound effects, this dramatized Bible is amazing. It brings the Scripture to life! I love the rich variety of voices. Often, the way the actor reads a particular verse makes me think of the verse in a new way. I cannot recommend this audio Bible highly enough!

 There are also several free options on biblegateway.com that I don’t usually use, but they might be just what you need!

Bible Study

For looking up verses, reading commentators such as Matthew Henry, and comparing versions, my go-to resource is biblegateway.com. That’s also where I get the verses to paste into my blog posts!

 Scripture Memorization

If you want to challenge yourself to learn a chapter or even a book of the Bible by memory in 2015, scripturetyper.com is a handy way to do it! All you have to do is create an account, import the passages you want to learn in the version you want to learn them in (the site uses biblegateway.com, so you don’t have to type them in yourself), and presto! You type a verse while looking at it, then type every other word by memory, and then finally type it without looking at the verse at all! The Scripture Typer system helps you keep track of what needs reviewing, lets you move through a passage quickly, and is a fun way to learn the Bible by heart. Try it out!

A Friendly Face

Whatever your spiritual-growth goals are for the year, find a friend–or two, or three–to help keep you on track.  Make a plan to study together, send each other reminder emails, and just encourage each other to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 3:14, ESV)!


I shouldn’t be surprised, but somehow the unending freshness and relevancy of the Bible catches me off guard again and again. The Book does not change…but it truly changes me. As I am reading through the Old Testament, I am staggered by the mercy of God to an undeserving people. I am blown away by constant signposts pointing toward the Promised Seed, the Messiah that would indeed be God dwelling with men on the earth (see 2 Chronicles 6:18; Galatians 3;16).

Oh, sisters, join me! Taste and see that our Lord is truly good (Psalm 34:8)! His mercy lasts forever, and His truth is without end!

“For in Him we live, and move, and exist….”

– Acts 17:28 –

Putting the “Forever” in Friend

hearts-1402436196S5n

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
– Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey –


Next to loving God, loving others is our primary responsibility (Mark 12:28-34).

God is easy to love in a sense, because He completely deserves my adoration. People…not so much. They can be complicated, confusing, changeable, cranky. Bottom line: they don’t always deserve love. Then again, neither do I.

I’ve seen friendships last fifty years…or fifty days…and I wonder if the life-long friend is becoming a rare breed.

I’ve seen heart-breaking misunderstandings where one person assumes too much. I’ve seen warmth cool until people stop speaking entirely, over the most unimportant of things.

So, from one friend to another, let’s talk about how to be a friend. I’m not interested in shallow platitudes or cure-all formulas. I’m interested in what the Bible tells me about friendship. I’m interested in being wise with my relationships, so that–to the best of my ability–I will be at peace with my friends.

The Talk of a Friend

1. Mean what you say

Friends have jokes. I get that. But be careful. What’s funny to you might not be funny to her, especially if the joke is poking fun at her. I’ve heard friends say, “I hate you” in jest. Uh oh. Too much room for mistakes there. Why even joke about that? There are plenty of funny ways to express friendly rivalry without risking your relationship over a dumb misunderstanding. It’s okay to tease…but be cautious. A hurtful quip is not worth losing a relationship. It just isn’t.

2. Do what you say

Be trustworthy. If you promise to send them an email, do it. If you say you’ll help out with a project, be there. It’s not hard…but it is. Just take your words seriously. Being a friend that can be counted on is HUGE. You will be the one that people will come to for help and advice, just because you are faithful. Follow through.

3. Don’t tell everything you know

It’s okay to not tell your friends everything there is to know about you. With today’s flood of social media, people often feel the urge to share every intimate detail of their lives on the internet. Instead, I’d encourage you to set boundaries. It’s okay to have thoughts that are yours alone. It’s okay to have family secrets that don’t go beyond the house. It’s okay to keep quiet. You don’t owe your friends knowledge of every secret. As long as you are straightforward and sincere, you don’t have to share everything there is to know about yourself. And sometimes it’s better that way.

4. Tell the truth with grace

“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent.”
― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Sometimes you need to ask your friends hard things–or tell them hard things–about themselves. Whether its a sin that needs confronted or a sticky emotional issue, being a friend means telling them the truth. When you think you need to say something hard, be careful. First, is it necessary? If not, don’t. Confrontations, though sometimes necessary, are not easy on friendships. Don’t risk a relationship over a non-issue. However, sometimes you have to speak. Approach with love and humility. Don’t act like a teacher or a second mom. If you can, tell how you’ve been in the same boat. If your friend still gets mad, you have to give the situation up to God. He can change hearts; we can’t.

The Walk of a Friend

5. Take the first step forward

“Love means not ever having to say you’re sorry”. This movie line turned into a catchphrase, and it is about the farthest thing from the truth that I can imagine.

Love means saying you’re sorry. Love means doing whatever you can possibly do to bring reconciliation. Love means laying down our dumb pride and being the first one to take a step toward the other person. Honestly, it doesn’t matter who “started it.” Dying on a hill of “being right” is a terrible way of killing a friendship.

If you’ve sinned against a friend, it is your job to take a step toward them. It is your job to ask their forgiveness.

But if you’ve been sinned against, it’s your job to take a step too. That’s what Jesus did. He came to us even when we were His enemies. This is radical love. This is friendship that is only possible with the grace of God filling your heart. This is Christlikeness.

 6. Love when you don’t want to

Just like discipleship, Love is a call to die daily.

The saying has almost become trite. People say, “Love is an action.” I don’t know if that is all love is. Love is also a choice: a choice to act for another’s good, even if they don’t deserve it. Jesus, again, is our ultimate example.

It would be great if our feelings always kept up with our choices. But sometimes, you need to smile and give hugs and spend time with a friend, even if you’d rather be doing something else. “But that’s so hypocritical,” you might say.

Let me say something about that. Hypocrisy is living a lie, fooling someone so they’ll think better of you. Imitating Christ, even when you’re operating on bare choice, is not hypocrisy. I can choose to thank God even when I’m not feeling particularly thankful, because it is the right thing to do. I can choose to get up and put on a smile even when I’m not feeling terribly joyful, because that’s what I’m called to. Or…perhaps it’s not so much a choice as a surrender. 

“Loving when you don’t feel like it” is not easy. It is a living sacrifice. It is laying down your desires and your contrary feelings and saying to God, “Not my will but Yours.”

The funny thing is…usually our feelings are not all that far behind our choices. What we practice is what we become.

7. Don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve

I’ll admit something to you. Growing up, I hardly ever saw my parents take offense from friends and family. We just…didn’t really get offended.

It’s not because we’re some rare breed, I assure you. It is just that many things are not important enough to get ruffled up about. Remember a lot of the things we’ve talked about? What happens if your friend calls you a name in jest? What happens if she forgets to do something she said she would? What happens if she confronts you about something painful?

See, love is not a 50-50 sort of thing. It is giving up yourself completely. So even if your friend messes up, you have a choice in that moment: You can be offended and assume the worst, or you can immediately let go of the offense. We take a lot of things too seriously. Don’t let bitterness get even a single talon in you.  “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’ ” (1 Peter 4:8, NKJV). 

The Heart of a Friend

8. Pray for your friend

This is an obvious one…but also one that I need reminded of myself. It is easy to hear our friends’ deepest needs and then simply forget to pray about them.

Let me tell you a little secret about prayer–it is like glue. If you pray for someone, something special happens in your heart. They become a part of you. Their victories become yours. You feel their pain or sorrow. So pray for your friends. It will bind your hearts together in a way only prayer can.

9. Don’t make…or be…an idol

Friendships are precious, without a doubt. But they are not ultimate. Some people, it’s true, are too independent, but others are too dependent. Do not allow yourself to set up your friend as your idol. If you don’t think you can survive without a particular friend, you should check your priorities. Beware of letting a person sit on God’s throne in your heart. And beware of letting your friends put you on that throne. We were never made to fill that kind of need in one another. Let’s strive, instead, to constantly point one another back to Christ, our only Savior. No one else is worthy to fill His throne.

10. Give up control

I’ve begun to fear, sisters, that you will take these words of Biblical wisdom and make them a set of rules to live by. This is not my own list of “10 Commandments of Friendship.” Not at all. These are lessons I have learned and observed–things that will make your friendships better if you take note. But NONE of these things will make you righteous and NONE of them are possible to sustain in your heart unless you have been radically changed by Jesus Christ’s grace and forgiveness and are filled with His Holy Spirit.

So, taking that to heart, let me say this: Give up control of your friendships. If you ever thought you could control people, let go of that lie. You can’t make people be your friends. You can’t make your friendships secure. This world is insecure and unsteady. You can’t make things go perfectly.

One day, all things will be made new and friendships will blossom eternally. There will be no rifts in eternity. But until then, keep your eyes on Jesus. Following His example of radical love, let yourself be poured out for your friends. We can only give ourselves. It is for God to make things grow.


 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

– Ephesians 4:29-32 –