I want to be the kind of friend who always shows up, who remembers every birthday, who writes beautifully handwritten letters and who throws Pinterest-y parties. Instead, I’m the friend who forgets to call. I’m the friend who flakes now and then. I’m the friend who asks you for your address a dozen times because I never remember to write it down.
I used to be a better friend, I think. I used to call more, write more. I used to invite people over to my home more. I used to feel like I was often the one doing “all of the work” in my friendships, but I haven’t felt that way in a long time. I think that means that my friends have been carrying the weight more.
The amount of time I spent communicating with and spending time with friends started decreasing when I got pregnant last year. The first trimester was a doozy. I rarely left the house and flaked on my friends time and time again. “I want to come,” I’d text. “I’m planning on being there!” Then, “Ugh. I can’t. I’m sorry.” Then, a few months later, my husband and I found out our baby wasn’t growing properly and would likely die before my due date. We pushed ourselves to hang out with friends and lean on them to provide distraction from our pain, but most of the summer was spent together, huddled in front of the TV. I forgot birthday after birthday. We missed several weddings. I’d see a friend calling and allow it to go to voicemail.
After John died, many of our friends stepped in and cared for us by bringing meals, sending encouraging text messages and assuring us that it was okay to take time away from social gatherings. For a while I felt extremely guilty about how lazy I was becoming in my friendships. I didn’t have the energy to have long phone conversations. Many of my friends were very dear and pursued me during that time, checking in to see how I was doing and asking how they could pray. The problem wasn’t that they pursued me! The problem was that after sharing my heart with two or three people, I was emotionally spent and struggled with having meaningful communication for days at a time.
I was hard on myself. I’ve always tried to be a good friend. I want my friends to not only know that I care about them, but to hear it and feel it. I also wanted to be stronger than I was during that time. Before our baby passed, I had signed up to host book club for the month of August. By the time the date rolled around, I really didn’t want to cancel, even though I had lost my baby only a few weeks earlier and was still in a lot of pain from the C-section. I made a quick snack to put out, took a Percocet and slumped back onto my chaise lounge. All I remember from that evening was answering the door and telling my friend Sally that I needed her to play hostess for the evening. I then put my head down on the table and rested while my friends discussed the book. They sweetly teased me about being “drugged up” and were more than understanding about how the evening turned out.
Over time I began to rest in the grace my friends showed me. I told myself that if my friends were okay with giving me free passes, then I should start giving myself free passes, too. For me, that meant not feeling guilty if it took me a week to get back to a friend. It meant being real with my friends about my struggle to be perky and chatty. It meant having friends over to visit even when my house was messy, and asking them to do laundry or dishes for me as I recovered.
You know what? I take back what I said about how I used to be a better friend. Yes, I have flaked. Yes, I have missed some milestones. But I have allowed my friends to step into the role of pursuer and told myself it was okay to be the one pursued. I allowed my friends to meet me where I was—a fragile, painful, but not hopeless place. I allowed my friends to see me cry, hang out in my messy home and hear me say, “I don’t have it all together.”
Something interesting happened when I began expressing gratitude to my friends for their patience and prayers. They thanked me for being transparent with them about my struggles and grief. There is a valuable lesson here about friendship, I think. Maybe you’re in a season of life where you aren’t being that “ideal” friend you’d like to be. Maybe you’re a new mom or working a tough job, and you’re too exhausted to make it to girl’s night out. Maybe you’re single or divorced and going to bridal showers brings up feelings of insecurity and loneliness. I’m not saying you should never suck it up and show up—I’m saying is that there is something to be said about being honest with your friends. Let them see into your heart. Let them pray with you, and offer comfort to you. This will not only bring you closer as friends, but as sisters in Christ.
What struggles do you need to be vulnerable about? If you’d like, share your struggle and prayer requests in the comment section and I will gladly pray for you.
There For You
Friendship Among Women
Laura Rennie lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband and constantly shedding dog. She loves reading, writing and playing word games. Her greatest desire is to share Jesus through her words and actions as she learns how to be a better wife, daughter, sister and friend.