All I wanted was a friend. A best friend. My family had just moved from Northern Maine to suburban Philadelphia after my 5th birthday. Friends, I thought, I‘d finally have friends. Who doesn't want a best friend, or long for a lifelong friend? You know, the kind you make in kindergarten who stays loyal and true for a lifetime.
I don't know about you, but neither "best friend" nor "lifelong friend" is on my friends list. As a Pastor's kid who moved several times in my lifetime, those relationships didn't move with me. In adulthood I have a tapestry of friends who are crisscrossed around the country but the deeper question is how many of those who have woven themselves into my life am I open and real with? How many do I communicate with about the real stuff of life?
The deep cry of most women's hearts that I come in contact with has to do with authentic relationships. Most of us have amassed a long list of acquaintances that we pass off as friends. And those of us in leadership have an even longer list. We throw around the term "community" yet I think a deep experience of community and authentic relationships is elusive for most of us. So how do we develop authentic community? How do we know others and allow ourselves to be known? I'm in the middle of this journey.
I now have a small number of women who have seen many of my warts and scars, been privy to my deepest fears and heartaches. There is still a part that I hold back, even from God. To be fully known is one of our deepest desires, and one of our deepest fears. We live in that tension and often the fear component wins out. The way we operate relationally is often based on what we saw modeled growing up. How did our parents and those we held in esteem develop relationships? Was our dinner table frequented by outside guests, or was our family tight and closed off? Often the realities of our lives today are easily traced back to our lives of yesterday.
Many of us have experienced betrayal in relationships, or seen someone close to us betrayed. Some have even been abused or struggled with codependency issues. These things all color how we seek to develop and maintain close relationships, or whether we seek to develop them at all. I had a close friend in Junior High deeply betray me. I guarded my heart and wouldn't let others in, especially other women, for about eight years.
The year after I graduated college I had two women call me on it. I was traveling for a year with a singing group and there were only three men and three women in the group. The other two women confronted me and said, "If you won't open up to us, first of all, it's going to be a long year, and secondly, we don't think God will work as deeply through us as he could." I knew they were right. God used their loving confrontation to break me and to begin opening my heart up to him and others.