Once in a while you get the opportunity to put seemingly random pieces together and watch it form a puzzle you had no idea that needed to be solved. I call these God moments because they touch so deep and heal so quickly that if you don’t pay attention, the real treasure might be lost. Tonight, I had one such moment (of course by tonight I really mean the early morning hours as God likes to wake me up).
Actually it all began about a year ago when I ran into an old friend, Sue, on a couple of different occasions. We told each other that we would get together to catch up but she never called and neither did I. At first the notion was dismissed because I was too busy, didn’t have time, or under too much stress but as the year progressed and the excuses disappeared, I found that I still had not picked up the phone. So what was the resistance?
I could dismiss it as we were not that close to in the first place and really what would we talk about? We were friends so many years ago that it would take hours just to catch up on the normal stuff such as kids, jobs, husbands, and homes. The conversation, as I played it out in my head, would end up being rather shallow and since I’m not into shallow friendships, why bother. But God keep putting Sue on my heart for some reason and I kept ignoring Him (actually my resistance was less of ignoring and more Jonah like).
Then one day I was working with a client who needed to process a suicide they experienced with a friend eleven years ago. The similarities in their experience and my own experience with a friend, Anna, twelve years ago were almost frightening. I found myself thinking more and more about the incident and while asking my client, “What did you learn from the experience”, I began to ask myself the same question. My answers were admittedly lame at first (as I would never accept such a response from a client) until tonight.
Anna and I were close friends and by some standards best friends. She knew me and understood me at a level unlike any prior friendship and best of all she still liked me. When I was lonely, insecure, depressed, and frightened, she was there for me and I valued her friendship. But Anna had her own severe depression which she medicated with both prescription and illegal drugs to monitor her ever shifting moods. When she was on, she was the life of the party and nothing could stop her but when she was off, she couldn’t get out of bed. After three attempts at her life, she was finally successful. Her family embarrassed by her actions had refused to give her a funeral so two other friends and I did it. She knew so many people, yet so few showed up which left me troubled and hurt even more.
Sue was also friends with Anna, although the three of us never did anything together. But we did hang out in the same circle of friends and spent countless hours playing our mutually favorite game of politics at many statewide events. Both women were successful, beautiful, smart, cunning, politically minded, and secretive in their own right; yet each chose a different path. Sue became highly successful in the political world while Anna committed suicide.
After Anna’s death and funeral, I stopped playing politics and stopped hanging around anyone who did. It was not until tonight that I realized the dramatic shift in my life as I can’t even recall attending one political event after Anna’s death. Something that I loved to do so much had died with her and I didn’t even realize it. While Sue climbed the ladder to success, I withdrew from all political friendships to avoid the hurt and hid instead in church.
It was a safe place to hide as no one asked where I came from but instead accepted me and let me into their circle. All too quickly, church became an easy excuse to give political acquaintances as to why I could not help. Sadly, I misused church by allowing it to massage a broken ego from the loss of my friend and other friendships through over-volunteering. The “high” I got from many accolades in my volunteering effort allowed me to suppress even further the hurt I felt and put much wanted distance between myself and all political friendships including Sue.
So this is the revelation, that I need to ask Sue to forgive me for my distance for she did nothing wrong yet I treated her as such. To the best of my memory, she was one of the few people at Anna’s funeral and was likely to be hurting as much as I by her loss. But because Sue reminded me of Anna, I ran and hid at church instead of treasuring the friend left behind. What I learned from Anna’s death was not good. I learned to hide instead of confront, to run instead of stand, and to abandon instead of risk. While I did not abandon my husband, my kids or my family, I did abandon a whole group of friendships and looking back over my life this was not the first time.
The only way I know to break a bad old pattern is to form a new one. So tonight I sent Sue an apology and hopefully it will be well received. The healing comes from understanding and seeing things from God’s economy instead of my own. For when I repair old broken friendships, I am extending His love to others and reinforcing my relationship with Him. It is only though Him that I can see clearly what I have done and by taking action towards forgiveness instead of anger, I am walking in the image of Job and not Jonah.