Several years back I was going through a tough time and I remember looking around and wondering why I didn’t have friends rallying around me offering their support. It was a hard realization to acknowledge that all of my surface level relationships really didn’t have much to offer me. In the midst of that lonely valley I could see how my superficial, arm-length away friendships weren’t cutting it. I had been hearing “circles, not rows” for some time, but never took to heart how much it would matter. Because what I was doing wasn’t working, and because wise people around me were having much success in their circles, I decided to give it an honest try.
So, “relationships” ended up on my list of goals in 2015. (Yes, there was an actual list.) I was diligent about listing my goals on January 1st, and even broke them down into monthly steps. (Of course I did.) I put it on my calendar to check in on the first of every month, evaluate last month’s progress, and make adjustments for the upcoming month. So as un-spontaneous as it can possibly be, I forced myself to plan 2 one-on-one times each month with a friend, plus one double date with another couple. Somewhere near the beginning of each month I would text two different friends and set up coffee or a movie or dinner or something. I found in doing this that the only hard part of the whole thing was setting a time. I always had a great time with whomever I hung out with, and my friends must have thought it was okay because they’d usually say yes to another hangout. I loved the time, but as an introvert my only obstacle to building into these friendships was forcing myself to schedule time.
So fast forward to today: I have several close friendships that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And because I want and need these friends to be a part of my life, like desperately need them, I no longer have to set myself calendar reminders to schedule time with them. I’ve learned from my friends what it looks like to love like Jesus loved, because I screw up. A lot. I say the wrong thing, I hurt feelings, I get crabby, I forget to reply to texts, but these friends don’t waiver. They call me out on it, we talk, sometimes cry, and move forward with the promise to do better. My friends laugh with me, a lot. They encourage me. They see greatness in me. They help me to see potential I never knew was there. They love me even though. And trust me; I have a long list of ‘even thoughs.’ I am a better person because of their influence in my life. So much better.
Those superficial relationships years ago were intentional. I was afraid to be vulnerable with anyone. I didn’t want to ever have to ask for forgiveness. I had a real fear that I would just disappoint people if they got too close. But living in that place of fear is a lonely place to be. This vulnerable space, where we do awkward together, where we walk through life together, is so much better than I ever thought it could be. The effort I put into these relationships was worth it. My friends are worth it. With these friends there’s a perfect balance of grace and truth, of enough and more, of ‘this is great’ and ‘yeah, but what if’.
But even though it is a balance, somehow, I find that the more I pour out, the more my own cup runneth over.