“brethren, if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens… For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself… Each one will bear his own load. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Galatians 6:1 – 5, 9 – 10
Today I began my devotions in response to an email Jess sent me. In it she reaffirmed that I am, on her part, still her best friend and attempted to validate her returning to Seattle. This email left me in something of a quandary, and as I am learning, in any quandary the best thing to do is listen to God. So I opened my little God’s Promises for Women to the section on friends, but nothing jumped out at me. The next section, titled “Give to Others with Grace” opened with part of today’s verse, “let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
Do not lose heart. I explored Galatians 6 further and felt convicted. Here I have nursed my self-sorrow, saying “Oh, poor me, I’m alone all the time,” feeling that my worth derived from what I can do for others. No; “if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Gal 6:3) NOt to say that I am nothing, but that nothing I DO can give me any additional value as a person. My value is inherent to my being, derived from the fact that God created and loves me. Everywhere I turn, I constantly find myself confronted with the fact that I am not worthless, that for my health, my marriage’s health, and the health of my relationships depends on my fully accepting God’s gift of love, the greatest affirmation of value possible. When Ian looked at me (rather nervously) and repeated those vows after Jayson – could anything say more clearly that Ian believes in my worth? So that was one revelation, but I had a productive bus ride because traffic extended it.
Do not lose heart. But it also says, “each one will bear his own load,” (Gal 6:5) then just before that, “bear one another’s burdens.” (Gal 6:2a) I have tried unfailingly to bear my and others’ burdens, without anybody else reciprocating. Nobody (barring Ian, and maybe one exception) helping me lighten my load. The two verses work when we bear others’ burdens because they should be helping lighten ours – everything evening out. But when that sharing goes awry, somebody begins to suffer. I cannot both hold my struggles and consistently and lovingly be there for other people unless they do the same thing for me. This, it seems, is where my relationships have gone astray. While I give all, as called to do Biblically, my friends have been focused only on their own lives and healing themselves – they can barely bear their own burdens (school, boyfriends, emotional issues, life decisions), so how could the being to think of helping shoulder somebody else’s burden as well? I can see why I feel lonely though: with Ian, my main burden-sharer, in London, I begin feeling like everything is falling on my shoulders.
What to reply to Jess? I don’t know; Ian vehemently feels that I ought to end the relationship – bang. My welfare is first and foremost in Ian’s mind, and in that respect I must consider his suggestions. But at the same time I am loth to allow such a relationship as Jess and I have (had?) slip into oblivion. I have prayed for wisdom, and I really believe that I am not called to “give up” on people… But Ian feels that I have been given up on in my time of desperate need. Now my eating habits have evened out to my normal and I seldom slip into long crying jags; I don’t know if Jess’s being here would work now better than it did before, and who knows? Maybe God used – or will use – her panicking and fleeing home to grow one or both of us. I feel like I am learning a great deal this semester, not just in my classes but in the Word and about myself. For instance, Mom and I had a wonderful talk earlier this week (last week?) about the value and purpose of friendships. We talked about how different friendships have different purposes: sometimes you are a giver, helping somebody else and being there for them; other times, you are the receiver, taking nourishment from your friend. However, if those friendships remain one-way, they will die. You cannot always be a giver because as I’ve learned giving sucks the life out of a person. You become unable to give after a certain point. On the other hand, receivers often feel guilty about not contributing to the relationship or when they get better they just don’t need the giver anymore. In any situation, the role of giver is more painful because the emotions invested by that person are either drained or ultimately rejected. Mom said that any enduring relationships (especially, I might add, marriages) must contain aspects of both giving and receiving, enabling each person to give when needed and take when needed – no exhaustion or guilt involved.
Some friendships are simply surface; you do fun things with people who are nearby and go no deeper than that: a friendship of proximity. Other friendships last forever, the even give and take enabling each person to enjoy the other’s company completely. Still others God creates for a short time to nourish one person. Those relationships exist exclusively for one person to be there at a crucial time, and when that time has passed, the relationship fades. Fades. What is the best way to end a frienship? Jos has effectively ended mine and hers by completely ignoring me for months, and I believe that is the common way to do it. But how do you know when that time has come, anyway? Easy to list Friendship Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, but how to know what one of yours is? Becoming emotionally involved with a person creates feelings of committment whether in a sexual way or not. How can you look at a relationship and say “This is Type 3, therefore it will end after I’ve poured out my heart to help this other person”? Or how can you know that it ISN’T a Type 3, that in reality if you stick with the relationship it will bear fruit for both of you in the future? Currently I feel that I have very, very few people with whom I have even the most surface relationship. At times I can accept it and “deal,” but at other times – especially in the evenings alone in the apartment – I begin to feel the loss of even having anybody to call and have a serious, thoughtful conversation with. Maybe my relationship with Jess is meant to pass away, but if so where does that leave me? With my two families and Ian for serious discussion and with maybe four or five friends to hang out with. I cannot see the future, thank goodness, so in the end I am forced as always to rely on God’s good grace and guidance.
Now if only it said somewhere in the Bible exactly what I ought to do in this situation…
– KF –
37 days to my husband.