The joke in Christian circles is that you shouldn't pray for patience unless you're good and ready to get quite a few chances to exercise that particular virtue. I can attest that this is often the case in my own life; I ask God to give me more of something, and He obliges. In spades, even.
Earlier this year I discovered another area you ought not pray about unless you're willing to undergo some upheaval: friendship.
Having simply gotten to the point where the resource of time often feels at premium in my life, and where I no longer feel pressure to be anything other than who I am, I realized that I am probably more of an acquaintance than friend in the lives of several people with whom I had previously been close. You know what? It made me sad. I found myself thinking over years of memories, pining for intimacy, and mourning the loss of the comfort that long-standing friendships bring.
I was caught off guard by the sharpness of the pain, and found myself praying something that I had never prayed before, "Lord, show me the value of real friendship. Show me how to authentically share my life. Show me who you have given me to walk with."
And that, I guess, was mistake number one. Because folks, within 24 hours I found myself unwrapping an onion that is only now, I think, coming close to its core.
First, I saw that a woman who I had felt an instant kinship with in truth held some pretty different foundational views in terms of marriage and parenting, and that those just plain old weren't compatible with the stated policies of the family Blandings. I admit that I was disappointed, but I felt a huge sense of relief as time went by. After all--we are only casually involved, and keeping things on the casual level will be far easier than disentangling after a messy incident.
Relief was also the word when a handful of peripheral ladies in my life suddenly began buzzing all the louder in directions I knew I wasn't meant to go. A couple were chatty Cathys who seem to spend their entire lives on the phone. A few engaged in gossip. A couple of others pushed for commitments after I expressly said no and even after I shared that my husband was not on board. Having just recently prayed for eyes to see, all of this felt like blessed confirmation. Not your people, God was saying.
From there, though, things got tougher. I had to appeal to a dear friend for an ear, which felt so uncomfortable at the time that I thought for sure I was going to throw up. She's normally more the sharer, and I'm more the mentor/listener. But I was having an authentic need to be heard, and felt like I needed to express that rather than do my usual of stuff-down-my-heart-and-wait-for-an-opening-a -few-days-or-weeks-later. Go figure: she wasn't offended at all. As a matter of fact, I've recently had to ask her if I had hurt her feelings on another occasion (Eeek! Potential confrontation moment!) and she apologized to me and assured me that all was well. ((sigh)) The beauty of being known!
I'd love to say that the rest of the journey has been just as rewarding, but I'd be lying. In equally swift fashion, the Lord hammered me with an out-of-the-blue dissolution of a long-standing, life-foundational relationship. You know--one of those friendships that stretches back before you were even aware that you had friends? Mr. Blandings had cautioned me about the nature of this relationship for years, but I was refused to believe his take on things. (I know, I know ...) The Lord made it impossible to deny. Still, cutting the ties was heart-wrenching, and looking into the future is awkward, to say the least.
As I said, I'm still peeling the onion. But already, I have learned so much. Good friends, for example, rarely live their own lives through the lens of their children's. Good friends don't serve up guilt when you are unable to meet their expectations. Good friends never assume that you're trying to hurt them. And good friends? Well, they usually have a pretty ready supply of other good friends because people want to be around them.
May we all be blessed with a multitude of good friends!