Take 5

Confession: I’m envious.

Do you hear it? Listen carefully for it’s the echo of an ache.

This is the fifth piece I have written in response to the “Friends?” phrase prompt for September. Plan six was to inform the Red Tent Living editors that I would not be writing this month. You know writer’s block or some such explanation. Partially a true statement, as words jammed in my gut and writing has been difficult.

I could have written a whimsical piece about my longing for a puppy. Although it’s a true desire, it’s not what stirs my heart these days. And, I think somehow… you would have known.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I had moved twenty-six times and it was my eleventh school to attend. Yes, I was the new girl catching up in junior classes to meet graduation requirements for the spring. Several in my small graduating class, did not know I was a senior until the advent of ceremonies. Needless to say, I won’t be posting on my Facebook status a “back in the day” kindergarten photo, of an enduring and dear childhood friendship.

Oh how I wish I could…

Moving was one of those “both/and” kind of experiences. It was difficult always being the new girl, alone, gawked at with whispers right in front of your face. My stomach still flips a bit walking into a room full of strangers. Lunch was the worst, followed by the threat of getting lost roaming unknown halls of those many schools.

With the next move always on the horizon, any friendships forged were usually lost. Oh, there might be a few letters back and forth in late elementary or junior high. Backs of envelopes splashed with poems like: De-liver, De-letter, De-sooner, De-better. Promises of “friends forever”, but for all practical purposes those friendships died – whisked off to the new adventure, as told by the grownups. With the added benefit of leaving behind friendships that crushed my heart and ended in rivalry or betrayal, yet the fear of being alone shadowed my every move.

No surprise, I guarded my heart. To unpack Robyn fully, only to be hastily moved one more time…yeah, not gonna happen. I learned as a very little girl that was way too painful. Thus, I held my heart out very intentionally. With a firm grip to pull it back quickly and close as needed. Now, I’m not saying this was the best way to live out my school age years, but it seemed to work for me at least, kind of, at the time. I did what I could to manage the pain. It simply was easier to shut down my heart.

I’ll admit, today I find myself in a similar space – holding my heart out ever so intentionally with a careful grip. Not because I’m worried about moving, but you know, just in case. A default setting profoundly rooted well within my core.

For you see, it has been a season where my heart has been opposed, stomped upon, refused and disappointed. It’s hard to love the next person if the previous one killed you. Sound dramatic? Possibly. Yet, isn’t that how it feels? Sadly, I too have done these very same things. And it deeply grieves my heart.

Friendship is a high and holy thing, and a two way street. Friendships are also messy. They are not for the faint of heart.

-Staci Eldredge

Even more than outing my envy, if I listen carefully, my heart requests that I surrender to desire.

Gut reaction: AGH!! This sounds absolutely crazy, out of control, dangerous and diametrically opposed to all my growing up years. Surrender asks me to present my cautiously held heart unto life, not death.

I’m not a school age girl any longer. I have grown. I have tasted and savored sacred relationships. I have never heard anyone call me faint of heart. And it groans with desire to engage the peril and walk the ever-turbulent joyous path of true friendship.

Recently in separate conversations, two of my friends took the risk to ask that we define our friendship. It was chancy and potentially very messy. I’m not going to lie, it felt uncomfortable. However, I found my heart ready, not fearful of either conversation. Even with no idea of what would be spoken or relational outcome. It felt honoring to each of our spirits. I loved that!

Truth: I war sporadically with this sacred desire – yes, no, maybe so – we all have the battle. And I want more!

My grown-up heart can hold and experience the burn of disappointments with rest and not fear. While loneliness in relationship is inevitable, in kindness I will tend this ache for the rest of my earthly life. How? By honoring my desire, which requires entering the pain of disappointment and holding with honor the fullness of me and the fullness of others – a truly stunning way to love one another don’t you think? And on the days when I don’t hold anything well, when I feel like the new girl…

Tomorrow is a new day!

Robyn Whitaker

Robyn Whitaker lives in Texas with her beloved husband of 34 years. She has an adventurous heart that is learning to breathe. Lover of truth, seeker of story, aspiring author and newborn dreamer, this mother of three is in search of redemption and living her Kingdom purpose. Robyn writes here. n