Since I’m a language and grammar nerd, I always like looking at how we say things as well as what we’re actually saying. I was thinking about this last night in context of the phrase “making friends,” or “making a friend.” It’s an act of creation.
So it’s VBS week at church, which is both really neat and horrendously exhausting. This year I’m co-teaching an adult class with Interpreter, which is its own barrel of really neat and horrendously exhausting, but I love it a lot and am daily affirmed that this is the right direction (provided I live alone forever, as these 13 hour days of PEOPLE are killing my poor little introvert soul). Last night some of us adults (which is still weird that that’s my category) went out after the evening ended for drinks and general de-stressing before the last push of tonight. It was definitely not something I do all that often, this casual hanging out with a group of people just drinking and laughing and being ridiculous. I’m much more the coffee-shop one-on-one type, or the meeting-over-lunch type, where there is a point and purpose we’re trying to achieve.
In short, I’ve kind of forgotten how to just hang out and be friendly. I have plenty of things I could say about how that happened and why it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the thing of it is that it took me a minute to just be part of this atmosphere. And it was okay; this is not something I want to start doing on a regular basis, but it was good to be that different part of myself that is outrageous and loose and sweary and such. As we were leaving, one of the folks said, “It was good to hang out with you; I’ve never gotten to do that before,” and it occurred to me that this is how adults build friendships.
Ewwwww, friendships. They take work, right? And vulnerability. And trust. And honesty. And all of these awful things I don’t like because I’m a curmudgeon and I have my two plant children (no, really, I have a spider plant and an aloe plant and I am currently succeding at plant parenting, back off this is an accomplishment) and my books and that’s enough thank you.
Except for the part where it isn’t, and where not everybody has to be my bestie 4eva.
The thing about following the human/divine Christ is that He was human as well as divine, which seems obvious but has so many exhausting pieces to it. He had friends; yes, the disciples were His students, but they were also His pals, the ones He wandered around with and the ones who told Him when His tunic was on backwards. But He also had several layers of friends; there were His best buds, Peter and James and John, and then there were folks like Andrew, and then there were the various Marys (which sounds like a great band, actually) and so on. And each of those relationships took work. Each had a point of creation by a creative God. Each was a totally different kind of important.
Sure, it wouldn’t necessarily have worked for me to go to the pub last night and say, “hey, let’s go fish for people” and then all of a sudden I’ll have a posse, but to go at all is a hell of a start. To make a friendship of whatever depth or duration is, like any creative endeavor, a work of time. You don’t sit down with an easel and paint the “Mona Lisa” in half an hour, even if it’s paint-by-numbers. Likewise, you can’t craft the various parts of yourself that don’t want to open to someone else because that’s effing scary yo into something that can mesh with someone else in ten minutes.
Naturally I find this very frustrating, not because I’m impatient but because all of that time of crafting a friendship is the moments of false starts and accidental insults and feeling weird because you kind of had a fight but not really because you weren’t friends yet so it doesn’t count but it totally does because you don’t trust that other person but then there has to be this relationship, so… And this is awkward and uncomfortable and so desperately human, which is not at all my favorite thing to do of a Thursday night.
Yet God calls me to relationship with Him and with His people. Try as I might, I can’t convince Him to call me to a life of solitude in a remote hermitage somewhere, so in a certain sense I have to go to the pub of a Thursday even when some of the people there are folks I don’t really want to see, even when I just want to go home and hang out with my plants. This isn’t to say that I should always overrun my own desires and boundaries, nor is it to disavow the beauty and acceptability of being an introvert, but it is to say that God calls me to come out sometimes and create relationships. To make a friend.
Even if making a friend is actually reshaping myself so that I can be a friend to someone else, who delights in having a drink with me.
“I no longer call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, for everything that I have heard from My Father have I made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that the Father may give you whatever you ask Him in My name.” (John 15:15-16, MEV)