Friday, March 27, 2009

Anyone . . . please!!!

When we come into an understanding of God’s love and grace, our life changes dramatically. One of the major changes is in our friendships. We may have had an active social life for many years before but, all of a sudden, our friends seem like strangers.

They just can’t understand why our lives no longer revolve around the institution. In the institution, social life is based upon its planned programs and activities. Since we’re either not going or we participate irregularly, we no longer have common interests or activities to keep us connected.

As our life becomes more and more focused on a relationship with God that is free of religious obligation, we find ourselves drifting away from those friendships. They may not end suddenly but we find that because we’ve changed, we have less and less in common with our former friends and, as a result, our interactions with them become fewer and fewer.

If you’re like me, you struggled to hold onto those relationships. You called and you tried to restore what was once there. This is probably the most painful part of this journey. It hurts to finally admit to yourself that they don’t seem to be interested in making the effort to continue the friendship. They might even give you a lecture about the danger of the road you’re on and your need to be committed to the “church.”

This journey is a lonely one because often there is no one nearby who we can share it with. Over time, the aloneness gets difficult. We pray and ask God to give us the friends we think we need but, as time goes by and none appear, we get more and more discouraged and the loneliness increases. Finally, we start to think about getting involved again. After all, anyone is better than no one.

Those were the feelings I went through and I thought I was past them but, as with most institutional mindsets, they have a way of unexpectedly showing up again.

I recently spent some time at my son’s home taking care of my grandson while my son and his wife were at the hospital having their second child. Most of the time, I was alone with my two year old grandson. He’s a sweetheart and I appreciated the time with him but I missed all of my online friends.

I got home late Saturday afternoon and was very tired. Since I had to be at work Monday morning, I knew I should just stay home Sunday morning to rest and get ready for work on Monday. However, I started thinking that maybe I should “go to church” just to be around people. Fortunately, I didn’t get very far with this line of thinking before I realized that this was an old institutional mindset that was coming out. I was feeling like anyone or anything was better than being alone. I ended up staying home and spent the day re-connecting with my online friends.

I'm going to stop and add something here. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to go but, when I go, it should be because I want to go and not because I need to go. I’m learning that God meets my need for all things including friendships and my dependence shouldn't be on an institution.

The truth is that the friendships we once had may have been for that season of our lives. We’re now in a new season and we have to accept that we may not be able to bring those friendships into this new season. Freedom for me came when I stopped pining for what once was.

I believe we’ll never be happy in this free life until we learn to be satisfied with what is and stop pining for what we’ve lost.

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10 comments:

Nicole said...

Hi Aida! This post resonates with me on so many levels! I just recently have realized that some old 'church' friends that I have only want to talk to me when they find that I post something on my blog or facebook that they have a problem with... It doesn't seem that they are really interested in cultivating a relationship with me but always come around when they have an issue with what I say... It's pretty harsh to realize this, but sometimes I guess knowing they aren't really interested in relationship its better to just move on I guess! I am learning how to do this, but its not easy at all! Anyway, thank you for this encouraging post! It really made me think about what has been going on with some people in my life recently! Love you and lots of hugs!!!!

lionwoman said...

Aida, again I love how you articulate so well. I have wondered a lot how much of my loneliness is due to societal conditioning... based on the idea that I "should" have all these friends. If my head hadn't been filled with all that, how lonely would I really be? This is a subject I'm seeking a new perspective on... thanks as always for sharing your thoughts :-)

Aida said...

Hi Nicki. Great to hear from you!

It’s sad when relationships revolve around participation in the system instead of being a heart connection. When we stop participating, that’s when we find out who our friends really are.

Our blogging buddy, Kent Burgess, talks a lot about how destructive expectations are to relationships and that seems to be true with your “friends”. As long as you meet their expectations, they’re your friends but, when you’re no longer willing to do it their way, they’ll drop you without thinking twice.

I’m sorry you’re going through that but it does seem to be part of this journey.

Aida said...

Hi Amy. Of course, you know that our conversations on this topic are what sparked this post.

I’m sure societal conditioning has something to do with it. For years, I tried to make myself into an extrovert because I thought that was what was normal. When you see the commercials on television where everyone is partying and you prefer reading a good book, you begin to wonder if you’re abnormal.

As I’ve shared with you, I’ve never had a lot of friends. That really bothered me at one time but now I’m fine with it. As I’ve learned to accept that introverts just don’t have a lot of friends, I’m at peace.

It's taken me a while but I’ve worked through it and I know you will too.

Bino M. said...

Aida - Great post! It hit home for me :) . It was hard for me to delete many contacts from my phone book after keeping them there for a long time there. They (the people I thought who were dear friends of mine) didn't care to talk to a person who 'rebelled against Holy Spirit and church'. I still have connections with few but most of them didn't want to keep any relationship with us outside the church. Oh Well! I am ok with that now. Like you said, my life was revolving around the local church we used to attend. So when we left, we kind of felt very weird. We didn't quite know what to do on a Sunday morning or Saturday evening for sometime :)

Your post brought a lot of memories to my mind. It's amazing how an institution can steal our life and most of the time we wouldn't even realize it. Sigh...

Aida said...

Thanks, Bino.

I can totally relate. There are still some phone numbers that I haven’t deleted from my cell phone. I just can’t bring myself to do it yet.

“It's amazing how an institution can steal our life and most of the time we wouldn't even realize it. Sigh...”

Good point. It’s only as we pull away that we realize how much we’ve lost.

Sherri said...

Aida,

Thank you for this post. It helps to know that others struggle in this way. I'm not happy that anyone has to go through this, but it is good to know that my experience is not a strange one.

I have found it so hard to accept that certain people could just dump me after so many long years of friendship that I thought was based on our relationship with God, and not church attendance. But I have found out otherwise, and I can say that it truly hurt. But God is so very amazing to heal the hurt, and to be that very close friend and presence that comforts like no other. I can honestly say that it is worth it all, just to experience Him in this way.

Thanks for your honesty in sharing.

Sherri

lionwoman said...

Aida, again thanks for your encouragement. I now find myself taking a good look, trying to separate the "shoulds" in my head from what's real - what's me and what Father wants for me. You know how little kids squash their play-doh colors all together in one big lump? Sometimes trying to sort it out feels similar to trying to sort out my daughter's play-doh! LOL It's a process, for sure...

Aida said...

Sherri, from what I’ve heard, your experience is very common. It’s unfortunate but it seems to be true.

Losing friends is very difficult and the hurt lasts a long time. I’ve had two friends that I thought would never leave me but, when I chose a different path, one turned away and the other chose to support her and to drop me. That was awhile ago but I think some of the hurt is still there although the anger and bitterness is gone. Betrayal of trust is never easy to get over.

But, like you said, it’s definitely been worth it all. I am where I am today because I chose to continue on this path to freedom even though it meant losing friends that apparently had never been friends at all.

Aida said...

Amy, I understand.

Between society’s expectations and the voices in my own head saying I’m not good enough, it’s hard sometimes to find the real ME. God, however, is still removing the layers in my life. Life, in general, places so many layers on us that it just takes time to sort through them. I feel like I’m more real today than I’ve ever been but I know some of the masks are still there.