We are the walking wounded. Shielded in self-protective cocoons. Afraid to be vulnerable, and yet desiring real friendship in the depths of our lonely hearts.
Many of us have been taught that our God, Yahweh, is a relational God. The Trinity is a great mystery. One God, but three parts. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, existing in perfect relationship.
And as God created us in his image, He created us also to be relational beings. It was completely possible for God to create Adam to exist in the garden satisfied in his relationship with Him. Fulfilled in every way. But God had put in Adam the desire for companionship, and made that evident to us when He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” This statement declares the truth that we were designed for relationship. Relationship with God, and relationship with other people.
But for many women I’ve spoken to, friendships are difficult to attain and even harder to maintain. Why do we struggle to hold onto that for which we were specifically gifted?
Because we are the walking wounded.
We’ve given our hearts only to have them broken, we’ve invested in friends only to have them stop returning our calls or unfriend us on Facebook. Gossip. Betrayal. Jealousy. Misunderstandings. Friendships are destroyed, and we who were created to be relational withdraw. Vulnerability becomes a liability when we’re in self-protective mode. And many of us become more afraid of the hurt than bothered by the loneliness.
Eleven years ago, I took a huge step. After much direction from God, I began attending a new church. I didn’t leave because I was angry at anyone or even because I disagreed with fundamental doctrine. God simply led me to follow my husband to a place where we could worship together and heal as a family.
I didn’t realize that the change would end some of my dearest friendships. Women I’d grown up with through college. Women I’d stepped alongside into family life. I don’t know if it was too hard for them to accept the change, or just easier for me to let go, but, I was broken by the loss. Devastated.
What I didn’t realize is that the loss cost me more than those friendships. Eleven years later, it is still affecting my ability to make vulnerable connections with new friends.
Dear friends, how do we move from self-protection to a place where our hearts are ripe for deep, abiding relationships?
Take ownership. If you need to apologize, apologize.
The Bible teaches that an unapologetic attitude affects not only our friendships, but can even affect our gift giving to God. If you remember that a brother or sister has something against you when you go to offer a gift to God at the altar, Matthew teaches, “First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:24 NIV).
Say you’re sorry when you need to.
However, it’s important to be prepared to let go if the apology is refused. Romans 12:18 teaches that we are to live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on us. We can’t control what another chooses to do with our apology, we can only control our behavior. And, you’ll be surprised at how your willingness to apologize enables God to prepare your heart for future friendships.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).
Their apology may not restore the friendship to its original place, but not holding grudges helps us not to harden our hearts so that we can remain open to vulnerable relationships in the future.
Entrust yourself to God, and take a risk.
When no reconciliation is to be had, wrongs aren’t acknowledged, and trust is irrevocably broken, it’s time to entrust yourself to the One who rights all wrongs, restores what’s broken, and makes everything new. We live in a fallen world, there will always be hardship, and suffering, and hurt. But in the midst of all that, we can still have real, deep, and abiding friendships. If we’re willing to risk giving our wounded hearts again, we can have friendships that bring mutual joy, help, and hope.
We were created by a relational God to live in relationship with Him and with one another. Let’s decide not to let fear of future hurt allow us to settle for present loneliness. In Him, we can deal with wounds that have limited our capacity for relationships and have the deep, life-giving friendships for which we were made.
Let’s talk about this! What are your next steps to have the friendships God desires for you? Join us on the Wholly Loved Facebook page and share your thoughts, experiments, and examples with us.
Making lasting friendships can be hard and necessarily involves risk. It’s much easier to take those risks when we know how deeply loved we are—when we know how to live deeply loved. Learning to live wholly and deeply loved is a lifelong process, one that involves dropping all the lies we’ve come to believe about ourselves and allowing God’s truth to permeate every part of our minds. It also involves allowing Him to heal our hurts so that we can begin to see ourselves as He sees us. So that we can begin to live authentically, as we were created.
We want to help you do just that! Join us for our next Wholly Loved Conference this September at Bethany Lutheran in Elkhorn!