When Adult Friendships Are Tough

Originally published Monday, 08 April 2013.

riendship and hanging out used to feel simple: my friend Kim would call me up on the phone and ask me if I could come over to play. She didn't have any siblings other than an older brother who stayed clear of us, and she lived in town. I had four younger siblings and lived out in the middle of nowhere. Going to Kim's to play--or for a sleepover--was always new and fun.

At Kim's we jumped on ten-speeds to go to our town's little grocery store to buy red ropes and Slim Jims. (Did you ever get to eat those delicious juice-squirting, preservative-filled sticks of packaged meat?) On the way back, we'd often crawl into the old, open boxcars abandoned on the railroad tracks behind her house and stay there for hours, our bare legs covered with dirt from the ancient floorboards. We imagined we were running away.

Kim's backyard was fun, too. Behind the house was a big shed with cobwebbed, paned windows that housed her discarded baby dolls, her Better Crocker magic oven, and stacks of old quilts and books. We would sneak in there, with a huge plastic bag of marshmallows and turn on the old gas stove her dad kept in there and pretend we were camping. Melted goo would coat our hands after just a few minutes--our index fingers and thumbs satisfactorily super glued.

Kim's house, in junior high, was where I saw my first rated-R movies, those bad-eighties ones with high schoolers always trying to have sex. We'd sleep on the floor of the thick brown wall-to-wall carpet, underneath the dining table in the front room, with a thin blanket pulled up over us. I was always freezing, out there on the floor, in the dark. I routinely missed home, in the quiet house. All the freedom that came with daytime adventures was no longer important. To go to sleep, you want to feel safe.

From Kim, I learned the then-horror of a French kiss. Kim demonstrated on her pillow what she saw her brother doing with his girlfriend in their driveway the week before. It was definitely one of the most bewildering things I had ever seen. But it was fascinating, too. As the oldest in my family, I didn't have the benefit of having an older brother who paved the way for what adulthood would most certainly look like. Or so I thought.

Spending time with girlfriends has changed, as an adult. There seems to be less time to have those long-drawn-out conversations about the big and not-so-big questions--the wondering about why Whitney's mom and dad weren't staying together, or the debating about who was cuter on the Dukes of Hazard, Bo or Luke. (Well, Bo, of course!)  Time feels less readily available--or maybe we are less willing to be vulnerable and to make sure getting together with friends truly happens--despite the busyness of work, family, and all the other responsibilities that come with being a grown-up.

Being an adult has a weight to it--the heaviness of work and family and financial responsibilities. It can feel difficult to take those risks we found easier to make, in childhood. Calling up a neighbor and inviting her over. Saying 'yes' to a friend you haven't seen in a while who asks you to meet her for coffee. We have trouble surrendering, I think, to what our hearts are made for--connection, transparency, vulnerability--the laying down of any masks that hide our true selves so that we can more readily live out the identities God has designed, just for us.

I need to be invited over for coffee. Or a walk. Or a bike ride up a hill that is too difficult for me to manage on my own so I'll need your cheering by my side to get me through it.

I need to say 'yes' to opportunities for connection. And I also need to seek them out myself. I should write and send that letter to my niece. She loves getting letters--and it would make my sister smile. I should answer the phone when my friend calls instead of letting it go to voicemail because I have just too many things to do. I need to hear her voice. I need to be open and available to the people God puts in my life to love.

I am still learning how to be vulnerable with friends. And I am also still learning the importance of seeking out relationships I so desperately need.

While I may not feel as carefree and innocent as I was a child, I know I need friends--women who know me and teach me and love me. I need this more so than ever, as an adult.

We have within us the yearning for friendship, the desire for connection, the heart that longs to be included, wanted, seen.

How do you struggle here? Were friendships easier for you as a child than they are now, as an adult? What gets in the way to saying 'yes' to friendship? How can we do a better job of taking risks and jumping in?

I'm so thrilled to share my heart with you. You can also find what it looks like when I listen to God, on your behalf, here: Loop.