I am thankful for my friends. But I am lonely.
Like many of you, I spend my days in a recurring pattern of living with and managing hidden disability. It’s wearying. It’s exhausting. And I know that most of my friends have absolutely no idea what my life is like.
So I balance friendships. Sometimes I seek them out. Sometimes I hide from my friends. I find myself in a continual balance, wondering, “How much do I share? Do I talk about myself too much?” Sometimes I find myself struggling to identify with my friends’ difficulties. Sometimes I pretend things at home are OK, or are at least easier than they really are. Sometimes I complain.
I recently spent ten days away from my family for work. During this time, God reminded me once again of the importance of friends.
While I was gone, there was lots of turmoil at home. I had to call several friends and even acquaintances to intervene in my home. I called some newer friends late at night, crying hysterically. And I realized that I don’t often open up with such vulnerability to my friends. Despite having people I can reach out to, my challenges make me feel that much more set apart from people. Different. My friends can come in at a moment of crisis; I live with this disability daily. I am painfully aware of how different my life is from theirs.
On day three of my long conference, I went into my hotel room to grab some lunch. Sitting on the cocktail table in my suite was a cheery mug filled with yellow roses. I thought the flowers were a gift from the hotel (I was in charge of the 7 day conference)… imagine my surprise when I found a note from a friend: “Nancy, here’s hoping you have some time to stop and smell the roses. Love, Beth.”
My eyes filled with tears at my friend’s thoughtfulness. I brought the small mug of flowers into the registration room and the eyes of my co-workers lit up. “I have friends!” I said joyfully. “I am so thankful to God that He has given me friends.”
And then, without pause, Cheryl spoke the words that so many of us often feel. “That’s what I’m missing in my life,” she said casually. “My husband and I hope to find friends now that we’re retired.”
I am thankful to God that I do have friends. I have a very strong network to help support me and my family. Yet Cheryl’s words resonated with me more than I let on. I often feel the painful sting of loneliness. The friends I have … well, they’re not always the friends I would choose. The relationships aren’t always easy. But they are the people that God has put in my life. Sadly, I am often the one who alienates myself from friends because of the challenges in my life.
I am tempted to withdraw from people because my life is so different from theirs. I am tempted to isolate myself from friends because they can never truly understand the difference between how things appear on the outside and how things really are. My trials leave me feeling set apart, different from everyone else. Friendship takes work, and I rarely have any left over energy to give to that kind of work. But I need friends (and sometimes I need to remember that I need friends).
**PS: I was convicted by this post and moved to step out of my comfort zone. So I sent an email to 10 Christian women I know of in my neighborhood and I invited them to come over every Wednesday morning from 6 – 6:45am for prayer. I’ll let you know how this goes!