Friendship is not for the faint of heart. Real friendship can be messy sometimes if we’re real, honest, and hold each other accountable. Nothing is harder than hearing you’re wrong from someone you really respect and want to be respected by, but if I’m wallowing in pig poop, I need someone to tell me this isn’t the time for a facial!
However, I’ve been known to stand in the poop and try to argue that it’s a spa treatment. God has really been teaching me to listen to the correction, searching my heart for any truth in it. Because I’ve learned that even if the entire message doesn’t apply, there is usually a grain of truth in it. But that grain of truth can rub skin raw like a salt scrub body treatment in the moment. Humility is hard. I want to be right. I want to get things right, so the past 24 hours has been hard. I beat myself up a lot when I don’t things right, but I’m learning.
Yesterday, one of my dearest friends and I had a disconnect. We were both trying to be Godly women, but between text messages, and conversation snippets (talking on the phone around kids, meals and husbands), we both ended up wounded and wounding each other on accident.
She was upset about an interaction during her day. I was trying to be a good friend. I heard the words she used in her message, tried to process what I thought was happening and vowed to give her some time before calling, but when she came to me with her hurt, I rushed in with my opinion. She was still raw, and we talked before she’d really had a chance to process. I had prayed about her situation before talking to her, tried to wait for the right words, but I still jumped in before she was ready to listen, and made some mistaken conclusions about how she was feeling. And because she was so hurt already, nothing I said could be heard with the heart from which it was spoken.
Luckily, we’ve been in the trenches together as teachers, women, wives, moms, Christians, and friends together for a long time, so even in the worst moments of this situation, we were calm and kind, even though we were both feeling like we missed something somewhere.
But thank God for His love that transcends the human emotions of a moment that wants to throw in the towel and quit. His love pushes us to say, “Can we try that conversation again?” Thank the Lord for His word, where we both immediately went in our emotions, and kept coming back from, ready for restoration.
In bits and pieces, between vomit and poop crises and softball practice and big brothers with sharpies, she and I did eventually manage to figure out where each of our hearts were right and what needed correcting in both of us. We were both validated, and also, both instructed. We both got to say, I’m sorry and I forgive you. It really was a beautiful moment in a friendship. We were both able to start over, communicate more clearly, and realize that if we’d both slowed down yesterday to do that in the first place, neither of us would have spent a day feeling upset.
Because we have had these conversations over the past 24 hours, broken into pieces, I’ve been in prayer and deep contemplation about how to talk to her, asking God to show me what I personally needed to hear.
First, I heard, “speak from where you are. You know what you’re thinking and feeling for certain.” When I did that, it we got to the right train of thought, but we still had some work to get to good. So I kept asking, what do I not see?
Usually when I ask Him that, he turns my family into my living object lessons.
Lesson #1 My husband came home from the ER yesterday with a smashed thumb. He dropped a missile on it. (Yes, a missile. Gotta love the army.) He was howling in pain as he tried to ice it. Our daughter tried to show him the ocean-themed get well card she created while he was in the midst of his pain. He wanted to listen to her, to give her proper attention but he couldn’t because of his intense pain. She tried to get louder and louder, but he was trying not to cry, he couldn’t do anything gentle or productive at that moment.
Note to self – when someone is really hurting, they can’t hear anything in their crisis. Just hold on to them and wait.
Lesson #2 I was on the phone (blue-tooth/hands-free) on the way home from our daughter’s softball practice, trying to get some wisdom from another treasured friend to get some insight into how I can better approach people. I’m about to start a ministry with people from all different places in their walk with Christ. I want to make sure I really learn how to love people correctly.
My daughter was screaming from the back seat. I signaled her to stop several times, but she just got more willful, until I did the most terrifying thing a mom can do – I pulled over. I don’t know about you, but my parents threatened to pull over or turn around a lot, but stuff got real when they actually did it. I made it clear that she could not scream while we were in the car, nor while I was on the phone, especially not the double whammy of being on the phone while in the car.
My daughter quieted down, but continued to be upset. When I ended the call a few minutes later, I looked into the kid view mirror. She was still in a puke stained, dirt encrusted softball outfit. Her sweaty hair was plastered to her forehead. She was exhausted from just being her little four-year-old self, and her tiny face was twisted into the biggest sad face ever.
“What is the matter?”
She looked at me and said, “I don’t feel special or loved anymore.”
Whoa! Yes, she IS that dramatic. Of course, I love you, I said, then we talked about what she had been doing wrong, that she needed correction. She agreed that she knows better than to scream and yell at me.
But then she added, “But I don’t feel special or loved when you get mad at me.”
What a wondrous child to be able to tell me what she needed. I told her that of course, she is loved and special all the time, that even when she is at her naughtiest, I love her forever and always, more than the whole world. But her bottom lip quivered, so I told her again. Then I held her leg. I can’t reach her hand in the van, but I can hold her ankle. So we drove home with her smiling happily while I held her leg.
I validated her feelings FIRST, then again. Then I held onto her with all I could, and only then could she hear the correction of her behavior, not who she is.
Ah ha! The moral of the story – instead of being able to gently lead my friend to what I was learning in Christ that might relate, she was already in so much pain, then I added to the heap of coals by making her feel criticized, like I didn’t value her, like she wasn’t special or loved, like maybe somehow I saw her as less or broken. Well, no wonder she couldn’t hear me. She was doing her smashed thumb dance, and I thought it would be a good time for a deep philosophical conversation. Why would she want to??
I had to learn how to hear her first, then how to support her, and then ask her “What are you feeling?” “What do you think about it now that you’ve had time to think?” “What are you hearing from God about this?” AH HA!
As soon as I asked her that question, we were back on the right track. She felt really good being able to process what she was feeling, thinking, learning. I could hear growth in her relationship with God, and she could know that I was empathizing with her, not trying to fix her.
Was she wallowing in pig slop and needed me to stop her from giving herself a poop facial? In the end, not so much. Did she need me to be a voice of truth? That remains to be seen. At that moment my behavior wasn’t the most effective. But luckily she was super patient with me and really walked me through a gentler way to get her to come to those realizations herself.
Wow, I know how to use questioning to lead people to finding the right answer; I really feel like kicking myself, but the truth is even when we “know” something, sometimes until the Holy Spirit has opened our hearts, that knowledge is just words. In a very real way, He taught me how to better be an ambassador of love today. Even though nothing I said was wrong or un-Biblical, I learned that I can better choose when or if to say something.
Both of us grew closer to each other and God through going to Him today.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Because when we stand and look at Him, he cleans us up by degree. And sanctification, like good friends, is a tremendous blessing from God.
So hopefully, she knows now, that in my friendship parking garage, why, yes, we do validate here. When examining the muck, I need to ask her what she thinks. Is that poop or chocolate? If it’s poop, let’s find the car wash together. If it’s chocolate, it’s every woman for herself.