Love the one you’re with, is a philosophy on friendship that a friend of mine shared with me a couple (well actually almost 5…5?!) years ago. Her theory was that as life went on, as the world turned, as seasons came and went, the friendships that we had with people closest geographically to us would be the closest friendships we had at that particular time in our life. I respectfully disagreed and reasoned that while I do believe the intensity of friendships do ebb and flow with the passing of life’s seasons, I didn’t think it necessarily revolved around geography.
I’d like to think that I can love the ones I’m not with just as much as the ones I am. With that in mind, I feel like I’ve got a confession to make to the ones I’ve not been with so much recently…
For the last two years I know that I’ve been a pretty rubbishy friend. I’ve actually confessed this to a couple of friends face to face and their responses have ranged from: “Huh?” to “No you haven’t”, but didn’t include the response I expected “Yeah, you kinda have.”
Let me explain why I won’t be winning a friend of the year award any time soon. I haven’t turned into a big meany, but rather for the last two years I have been far too much of an absent friend for my liking. Taking up a job at and moving into a convent doesn’t exactly leave a massive about of spare time for socialising and spending time with people who might need you to be around. Why didn’t anybody tell me that moving to a nunnery with very little internet and zero phone signal would damage my social life?! (What, you did? Well why didn’t I listen?!) Because of the nature of my job at Thornton I just haven’t been able to be around much over the last couple of years and I have been very, painfully, aware of what that has meant for some of my friendships. I’ve missed: birthdays, hen parties, weddings, nights out, dinner parties. But more importantly, I’ve not been around for: the “I’ve had a rubbish day” glasses of wine, the “I just kind of need to talk to you” phone calls and missed the “this is what’s going on in my life” Facebook statuses. In short, nothing massive happened, I’ve just been very absent from the stuff that helps keep friendships stuck together… life!
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t actually become a nun two years ago (though to be fair, that would explain a lot and there have been rumours!) and I have been allowed out at weekends, so I haven’t been a total social recluse and have seen the important people in my life, just far too little for my liking! One of the things I am so looking forward to over this summer and on into my new, post Thornton, life is catching up with so many people, spending time with all of my favourites and kinda learning how to be a good friend to certain people again.
You may think I am being somewhat over dramatic (to which I would reply, with hand clutched to my brow, “Moi? How very dare you!”) but I have had friendships not last a time of separation before. There are people no longer in my life because we just couldn’t work out this whole “we were close, then we weren’t and now we are again” thing, and I simply won’t let that happen with any of the precious people currently in my life. I am very blessed with unbelievable, grace filled, forgiving and ultimately very chilled friends who seem to be ok with the fact that I have basically dropped out of circulation for the last 18 months. And to these wonderful people, I say thank you for putting up with me and sorry for my absence and silence.
But even as I say sorry, in the very next breath comes a caveat that I’m actually not 100% sorry (I giveth and I taketh away). Let me unpack why…
A few years ago, as I left uni and took up that crazy offer to go and live in a convent, my then tutor/now friend gave me a beautiful Willow Tree figurine. It is a figure holding her heart out for everybody to see, and my friend said that it reminded her a bit of me, wearing my heart on my sleeve, showing everybody how I feel in the hope that it might help someone. That figurine is my reminder of a pledge I made that, when asking where to go in my ministry and job, I would find a dark place and shine in it; giving my heart to the young people I find there.
My last vicar used to say that he wouldn’t have done what ministry called him to do for anybody other than Jesus. (I may have actually only heard him say it once, but it stuck with me ya know!) There is hardship, there is risk, there is a cost, there are sacrifices and things you give up, but you do it because its for him. It’s like Rend Collective say in their song ‘The Cost’, “I’ll leave myself behind… I’ll chase you through the pain, I’ll carry my cross…I’ve counted up the cost and you are worth it.”
So as I regret my distance and absence from so many friends over the last couple of years and am sorry for the what I’ve missed, I’m not sorry for upholding my pledge to go and invest my heart in the dark place I feel called to shine in, because I’m doing it for him, and he’s worth the cost. My friends make my life what it is and I’ve hated being so separate from them for two years, but I’d hope that I’d be able do it all again in a heartbeat if God asked.
I guess this sorry is actually more of a thank you… thank you, you incredible people, who keep me stuck on a bungee rope, letting me stretch to the places I need to and then allowing me to spring back and pick up where we left off; that’s proper, grown up, heart thumpy, friendship and I am a bit in awe of you. Know that I will do my utmost to allow you to fly in the same way.
And I guess to finish this blog I want to turn it back to you, I wonder if there is something you are being called to do. I wonder if there is something you feel like you need to put down in order to pick some other wonderful thing up. I wonder if you are feeling the absence of a friend or are having to be the absent friend, for an awesome yet painful reason. When it comes to life, and especially the Christian life, like I said there are hardships, risks, costs and sacrifices but I pray that you would be blessed with a reason to make that cost worth it and friends who would understand your sacrifice and be willing to stand by you.
So finally, to sum it all up, all that’s left to say is: Hi, I’m Lex, remember me? I haven’t been around for a while but I’ve missed you so much. Can we go and grab a coffee/dinner/film/walk and catch up?