This month FACETS of Faith dives deep into the topic: How do you love a friend when it’s hard? Good things don’t always come without difficulty. Valuable friendships are worth the fight.
I (Tracy) couldn’t wait for the big event: Valentine’s Day. Our classroom celebration set amongst a stage of scarlet and pink. The scarred blonde surface of my 3rd grade desk proudly displayed my crepe paper masterpiece: a Valentine’s Day mailbox ready to receive love.
Long before the days of Pinterest and the internet, teachers and students relied on good ole fashioned imagination to design and capture creative vision. Shoe box saved up specifically for that purpose, all we needed was a bit of glue, construction paper, glitter, and markers. Supplies mixed with a vision for a mailbox masterpiece made receiving friend’s store-bought messages of encouragement such fun!
Excitement hovered thick like a cloud as I anticipated the love that would soon fill my little-girl heart.
“Have a Berry Happy Valentine’s Day!”
“Valentine, you are tutu cute!”
“You’re awesome sauce, Valentine!”
I labored with much thought. Which friends would receive my favorites? I guarantee my besties would have received the “tutu cute” message (after all what girl doesn’t want to hear she’s cute?). The frilly pink tutu would have nothing to do with my vote for aforementioned favorite valentine. I do NOT have an issue with fashion. None-whatsoever. (Clears throat – Let’s continue before one of my friends calls me on that one and conducts a fashion intervention.)
Oh, if only loving our friends well were as easy as sending a grade school valentine message. Being a grown-up grade schooler doesn’t always allow life to look and feel that simple. As much of a blessing as friendship can be, sometimes it can also be stinking hard. Throw sin and spiritual attack in the mix, and it can get as sticky as Elmer’s glue when the lid falls off and all we’re left with is a glob of milky white mess.
Certainly, the enemy doesn’t want us to be in relationship with others. The slippery serpent will try to stir up strife wherever he can. As grown-up grade schoolers, we can’t let him. We need to be friends who see through a spiritual attack and make a conscious choice to love ─even when it’s hard.
We need to recognize strife for exactly what it is: an attempt from the enemy to separate us from those whom God desires us to have connection.
That is often enough. See the spiritual attack. Say what it is aloud (even if it’s only to myself). Then keep stepping into the discomfort with the purpose of unity and reconciliation.
Just before Christmas an incident happened with a group of friends. What took place wasn’t so much about them as it was the slippery serpent trying to pierce me with his dagger. He used those up close and personal to unintentionally hurt my heart.
You see, I know them. I know they didn’t mean to hurt me. I know they love Jesus, and I know they love me. I know they have their own hurts and hang-ups (because we all do, right?). They just forgot how the words and the topic of discussion so closely connected to me and to those I love most.
I removed myself from the discussion to protect my heart from hearing too much. I can forgive, but I knew the more words I heard, the harder that would become. I knew God wanted me to look past what I felt were hurtful words and recall who these people really were─and are─my friends who just forgot. They forgot about what feels like my biggest situation…the kind we wrestle with God about and wonder why, until we remember to have faith.
Perhaps, they don’t know how hard I fight not to cower in a corner afraid. How could they, really? They’re not God. They’re not me. They don’t know.
Grace. Because I’ll need it from them sometime too.
I’ll say something I shouldn’t. Not thinking. Not knowing. Unintentional. It happens. It hurts, but it happens.
Remember. Remember why you’re friends in the first place. That helps too. Remember deposits they made in your relational account. My group of friends have made numerous deposits over time. We’ve done life together and accounts have earned interest. Time together will do that. Remember that one incident, even when it feels like a big violation, doesn’t have to mean a friendship has been fatally wounded. Seek God about that.
For me, there was not fatality, although there could have been. I could have stormed out of that house and never come back, but that would have been my inner child winning – the one who wants her way and wishes everyone would understand her woundedness, the one who wishes those close to her would always remember, “oh, yeah, that might sting”. Honestly, I still want that. I want that from my friends and I want to be able to give that to my friends. I know it won’t always happen. I know I won’t always do it. But I can desire it. Sometimes, we’ll remember to be sensitive and gentle in spirit. Sometimes, we’ll stumble along, muddling through and doing the best we can.
Remembering why we became friends with someone in the first place helps us love a friend even when it’s hard. What is at least one thing about her that makes you smile or laugh? How has she blessed your life in the past? How might she bless you in the future if you can move forward? Hold onto those thoughts if you need to make a conscious choice to love a friend who has hurt you. The reward on the other side of the relational hard work? A restored friendship.
Do you want to know what I did? That night, I made a conscious choice to forgive those involved. RIGHT AWAY. I couldn’t hold a grudge. I couldn’t seek justice on my own. I sought solace in my Lord and Savior, because I needed Him to soothe my wounds from words that did hurt. I didn’t deny the hurt. I gave my pain to God, because I’ve learned that on the other side of pain undealt with (for me, anyhow) is anger. I have to nip that one in the bud right away. Instant forgiveness is easier than overcoming a bitter, angry heart.
Forgive fast. The future of your friendship may depend on that very thing. If you don’t need this knowledge for now, store it up for the future: forgive fast and keep those friendships intact, sisters.
As grown up grade schoolers perhaps we can send a few valentines of our own.
“I extend grace, because it’s what good friends do. Be Mine, Valentine!”
“Thanks for deposits made. Your friendship is something I can count on, Valentine!”
“Valentine, I forgive you because our friendship is worth it.”
What valentine is God calling you to send your friends? Love them well, even when it’s hard. Remember, they might have to do the same one day with you.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Love well. Love well. Love well.
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