On Mondays at lunch (or whenever since Amy forgot to send out the post on time), we fast and pray for men and women to be conformed to the image of God more and more, and for marriages to be given to those who desire it.
One of the hardest lies for me to fight is the lie of being (or seeming to be!) unchosen. The largest piece of that is usually with men, and feeling that all the dozens of dates and relationships are a waste of time since no one seems to ever pick me anyway!
But if men have made me feel unchosen in the marriage realm, my girlfriends can be a close second in the friendship realm. Living fully in the reality of adult singleness often puts more pressure on same-sex friendships. And sometimes that pressure can morph into something unhealthy and codependent. That being said, even in the healthiest friendships, there is often a transition season when one party starts dating seriously. And another transition when he or she gets engaged, married, moves, starts a family, and so on. If you’ve been single for more than a year past college, you’ve been through this dozens of times and you know what I’m talking about!
When you’re the person starting the new phase, life is full of action: anticipation of the relationship or wedding or baby is usually mostly positive with tinges of grief as you mark the clear end of the previous chapter. To the friend not starting the new thing, these changes can feel more like equal parts celebration of the good gifts, and dread of the inevitable distance the new change will produce. In this changing season, one person’s priorities are shifting toward the upcoming chapter and the other person’s priorities are (roughly) staying the same.
That season of change often seems, to me, to be a very real experience of feeling unchosen – this time because the new boy or new baby are taking up more room in my friend’s life. And I am absolutely, utterly grateful for those good gifts in her life, but I am also very aware of the million subtle ways I feel her saying: “I have new priorities. And you are still in there somewhere, but you’re a bit lower on the list than before.”
Maybe it is the closed bedroom door while she talks to him on the phone for hours on end. Maybe it is the excuses for out-of-character behavior changes or forgetfulness. It is the news she forgot to tell you, the questions she forgot to ask you, the cute boy in your life she doesn’t know about, the things in your life she has no idea she missed. And it does hurt to feel that distance in a friendship.
And in the face of those very true and felt realities, it is very tempting to isolate myself, retreat into resentment or bitterness, and tell everyone else how horrific my thoughtless friend really has become. Those options are easy and visceral and don’t touch the actual problem. This is one of the places where being single takes immense courage that very few other people actually see. The courage to choose love, the courage to choose forgiveness, the courage to hold a friendship with open hands, the courage to trust around the relational blind curve.
To that end, here are a few thoughts on going around that corner:
Cultivate healthy friendships. Start with Jesus. If your relational world isn’t centered on Jesus, one friend’s change can throw the entire orbit into disarray. I sadly speak from experience on that one. Jesus is the rock, the unmoving center, the One whose word holds the stars in place. He isn’t going to shift on us! When He is our anchor, we have the safety and freedom to take relational risks in friendships…whether that means starting new ones, letting go of one, staying in one during a weird season, or risking embracing solitude (hard for those of us who are extreme extroverts, but I’m trying!). On this front, it’s also good to ask the Lord if there are any friendships where I am leaning on this person for things that only Christ can give (identity, security, protection, etc).
Forgive and keep forgiving. Anna’s post on forgiveness is still one of my favorites because I need to refer to it so often. Take your wounds to the One who was wounded for us. He carries our griefs – nothing is too small for him, and He alone can free us to forgive…and keep forgiving. Again, no one else might see this reality in your heart and maybe no one will celebrate your monumental decision to let go of a situation that is burrowing bitterness in your heart, but Jesus sees! And I’m celebrating for you and with you! This practice has been incredibly freeing for me (after, of course, it’s incredibly difficult).
Trust the Lord with your friendships. Michelle’s two-year rule about married friends is a good guide. Let the Lord shape and reshape your social circle. Does this get exhausting? ABSOLUTELY. Do I wish I were able to have a relational “home base” with a spouse? ABSOLUTELY. And have I seen the Lord provide relationally for me, to place the isolated in families, and to care for me in the smallest ways? Yes, just as absolutely as I have longed for the spouse and a pause to the merry-go-round friends. The strange thing is that this process of longing and reshaping has also made me more hungry for heaven where our true Bridegroom satisfies our longing hearts with the permanent reality of His presence.
Follow Jesus on the path He’s put you on today. Don’t let another person, even a close friend or perhaps eventually a spouse, be the dictator of your joy in Christ. Your name is written in the book of life, You have an imperishable inheritance in heaven, You have a God who gives his children bread and not scorpions…He is enough. No man is enough, no children are enough, no money is enough, no outcomes are enough, no experiences are enough, nothing on earth will satisfy. Instead, I want to risk truly and deeply living today exactly where I am…even if that means by I have to start by sitting down and weeping from the bottom of my heart about the longings that have gone unseen and unmet by human relationships.
In short, the reality is that true love does and should alter our priorities. Love keeps our hearts warm when circumstances whisper “despair.” But the truest love is something we all have access to in Jesus Christ. It’s not something reserved for people who met certain circumstantial criteria like marriage or kids. We have access to Love himself in Jesus Christ, and He is moving toward us with compassion. That is good news for all humans and all friendships.
By His Grace,