This Tortured Thing Called Friendship

It hasn't been going well the last 33 years or so. Friendship-speaking, of course. 33 years ago I entered Kindergarten and the world of have and have-nots was on display for all the world to see. But to save time, we'll fast-forward to the present.

I've put myself out there.

I've smiled and have been friendly.

I've gone to all the places and I've done all of the things.  

I've set the table and sent out invitations and yet, my heart remains a veritable ghost town. The fragments of worn-out silhouettes and half-built structures litter the plain that is all but desolate. Memories haunt the landscape like gossamer strands of unrealized hope and unfulfilled promise. Tumbleweeds blow past, stirring up the dust, but not a soul will witness it. A noise can be heard in the distance, the shrill of a whistle blowing. The friendship train has crashed and burned yet again. It's not the first time, nor will it be the last. This one didn't even make it out of the station. 

I am giving myself permission to call it quits. Yes, you heard me right. I will explain. 

I've had this idea that if I did the right things that this friendship ride would be successful. Overall, it has not. There have been some winners here and there and for that I am grateful. But it's all the little things on my heart today which pierce me like daggers all over. The exclusion is palpable. And the reasons why? I can't discern them. 

There are the invitations we don't get.

The inside jokes told in front of me that say, 'you don't belong'. 

And to top everything off, the absolute kinship I feel with David when he uttered the words that nobody cared for his soul. How my heart cries out in anguish over all that I've been left to deal with alone. The devastating, life-altering things I've been dealing with while kept at arm's length. While being smiled at, briefly, at parties. But ignored when it mattered. 

I am there today. It hurts. It stings. It makes my sorrows harder. For too long it has made me wonder if there was something wrong with me. I could tell you how I am a good friend, loyal and all that. But it doesn't matter.

I am letting you in to see this feeling which is the result of repeated friendship disasters in order to let you know that if you feel this way that you are not alone. And also to help you be free of the compulsion to make friendship be successful.

It takes two people to do that. 

I've labored under the delusion that I've had to make everything right in order for a thing to last and to succeed. And I've learned that I've been wrong. No amount of goodwill toward another can guarantee success in this thing. Look at the life of Jesus. Things didn't always go so well for Him. 

I've also thought that you could gauge your self-worth by the number and quality of your friendships. That isn't true either. I didn't think it would be this way, with Christians. All my life lived on the outside of Christianity, I did not expect anything to really go that well. But once I became a Christian I expected better.

To not have to be sophisticated or careful, watching out for landmines of hair-trigger offense.

To not have to follow so many strange and contradictory rules, things not found in the Bible.

What about forgiveness?

What about integrity?

What about love?

I've found that so often it is the outward appearance of social put-togetherness that is valued above whether or not a person is a good friend. I've also learned that Christians, so often, do not want to hear the truth. And as a Christ-follower I am left scratching my head over why we can't do the easy things like friendship.

Where will we be when things get really hard? Especially if we are left standing all alone? Why are we so fickle? And why have we allowed the trappings of social middle-class expectations to dictate with whom we will be friends?

Why do we throw each other way and inflict so much damage on one another? Why aren't we there to help one another buffer the trauma of this life? Lifting one another's burdens? Not climbing a ladder of friendship success?

And though I would like to walk along the path of life with a group of friends, it is true that I can hear the voice of Jesus so much clearer. He lets me know that I am never ever alone. 

And so, dear friend, if you've tried, like me to board the friendship train with devastating effects, you're not alone. It isn't up to you to make it a success. It's only up to you to try. It's also not an accurate gauge of your worth. And no matter what, Jesus will always be the friend who will stick closer than a brother. 

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