I can dish it out.
But can I take it?
It may surprise you to know that I actually ask for it. Often.
Advice. Feedback. Help. Notes. For a kick in the pants even. From people who know me. And know me well. But don’t misinterpret this as my simply seeking out those who love me so much that they won’t dare tell me I’m doing something WRONG! While, it’s natural for us to seek out the confidence of those who will listen, empathize, and then give us a pat on the back and say, “It’s ok” regardless of the situation,
It’s not ok.
Nor is it the depth of friendship I desire at 44.
As I get older, my circle tightens. Heck, it has tightened significantly over my 4 years living here in Beaver. I chalk it up to being the new family in town, who everyone is curious about in the beginning, and wants to get to know, and then, after learning the muckity-muck and the flibbity-floo, those friendships fade into acquaintances. That’s not a complaint, as much as it is an observation.
And then, you meet the “solids”.
They are smaller in number, and rock stars in depth.
They listen to your stories – over and over – pretending they’ve never heard them before.
They celebrate your successes.
They give without expecting a return.
They tell you when you’ve goofed and when to put a sock in it.
They both call you . . . AND, they call you out.
They ask you tough questions.
When you hit snags, you unsnag, and move on.
Sometimes, I sense that church-folk just want to make nicey-nice with each other. (What is UP with the muckity-muck, flibbity-floo, and nicey-nice? Whatev. I’m on a roll.)
And by that, I mean, we’re afraid of confrontation and conflict. We are fearful, not of having, but rather, of stating, opposing opinions. And, we forget that speaking the truth in love IS actually something we are called to do, which means checking in with a brother or sister in Christ when concerns arise . . . and no, doing so is not judgmental.
It’s called friendship. Real friendship.
I have those people in my life. And seek them out. Often. To check myself. They ask me uncomfortable questions. And guess what? They don’t always agree with my answers. They aren’t afraid to say, “Jo, back the truck up, that was uncool.”
And then, we continue on, just as we have been.
Here’s the kicker . . . many of those folks are not actually . . . um, here.
And this can be hard for a Pastor’s wife. Heck, this can be hard for anyone. When you’ve lived 20 years in one city, and 20 years in another, you have a history, and a bond elsewhere. Upon moving to a new city one enters a story already in progress, so navigating one’s place and settling in to the plot-line can be arduous at times. Maybe more so for me because I’m not a “let’s just smooth it over” type, but more of a “Hey, there’s a bump – let’s tackle it!” type of gal.
All this to say, I have my few here – only, not necessarily church members. (GASP!) When you have a spouse on staff, sometimes, you just gotta check-in elsewhere. So, I go to these few to ask if I’m crazy . . . and because I trust they will tell me the truth about myself – and not the Olsteen truth of “You can be everything God designed you to be!” (Um, buddy, if I could be everything God designed me to be, I would be perfect in THIS lifetime. Ain’t gonna happen. I seriously SUCK at some stuff. Back to sound theology . . .). It’s not human nature to respond all hunky dory upon hearing someone share that they are concerned about a decision we’ve made, or how a situation has been handled. But to ignore friendships like these is to remain at the shallow end of the pool.
I’m thankful for these folks, and know that while setting me straight, they also won’t jump ship.
My circle does not merely include those who blow sunshine and sweet nothings my way. Nope. They are the people with whom I can share my true intentions and deepest emotions, along with receiving critical feedback that can help with my spiritual/personal development.
And, ahem, they allow me to do the same. For them. (And they STILL go to bat for me! WHAT?!)
I sincerely hope that all of us have at least a short list of those who can be trusted to stay the course through the fun, as well as the funky times.
Surrounded by “yes” men (or women)?
Be mindful of that.