Saturday, July 16, 2005

Friendship is SO Inconvenient!

The story is told of a certain culture among the people groups of Bush Alaska. In these isolated villages, boundaries are often loose--too loose. Children run freely day and night, and everybody knows everybody’s business.
As the story goes—and this is hearsay, though I believe it to be true—closed doors mean nothing to these villagers. If the door is shut, a person might just open it and walk in. If it is locked, there will be persistent knocking until the door is opened to them. (Sounds like a familiar Scripture verse, doesn’t it?)
Whether or not he has been invited to come in, the person will make his way into the kitchen or main living area, lean back against a wall, and sit down on the floor. No conversation is made or expected by the visitor, and although appreciated, any offers of food or beverage will probably be turned down. If the visitor is asked outright the reason for being there, the answer will almost always be: “I just came to be with you.”

This is highly disconcerting to me. If this happened to me, I think I would “freak”! (overreact) I definitely don’t think I could live in a place like that. My boundaries are quite intact (as in concrete walls) and my personal space needs are huge (think “fortress”).
No matter how I try to dismiss this story from my thoughts, however, I find myself dwelling on the spiritual principles behind it.
Jesus was in the habit of invading people’s space. He often crossed cultural boundaries, speaking to women, hanging out with the “wrong crowd,” knocking on the doors of “unsavory characters” and inviting himself into both private homes and private meetings. Closed doors meant nothing to Jesus. He even walked right through them!

Isn’t this story a perfect description of the Holy Spirit: the “Unseen Guest at every meal; the Silent Listener to every conversation…” the “Comforter” and “Friend” who just wants to BE with us?

I prayed to the Lord this week for a friend. I cried out to God, drowning in my tears of self-pity and sorrow. I petitioned Him in my loneliness for someone to “just be with me”—to be my walking partner, my garage-sale companion, and my “clutter-buddy” (to help rid me of all my previous garage sale purchases!).

This week God sent two friends to my door. One friend boldly walked in through the closed door, (announcing her presence while I happened to be in the bathroom, of all places!), stated her purpose clearly, (“I just want a hug!”) and proceeded to explain: “I know you don’t like “drop-by’s” but I couldn’t get you to answer the phone.” Then, my friend and I had a nice visit; not too long, not too short. The second friend came to my door, but was too timid to knock or ring the bell. I went out to meet her. I should have invited her in, but she had someone waiting for her in the car. I happen to know that both of these friends are lonely and hurting—needing a friend to “just be with them.”

God answered my prayer, but I didn’t even recognize the answer. What was my response to these two friends who came to my door to just be with me? I “freaked”! (overreacted) Both times, I spun them around, pushed them out the door, put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign, slammed it shut, and turned the dead-bolt lock! What is wrong with me?!

It’s almost as if God gave me two chances. When the first friend came to my door, God was saying, “Here’s your friend, just what you wanted.” Yet, I summarily dismissed her as if to say, “Yes, I know she’s a friend—but I want another one!” So Loving, Patient, Kind, Father God looked down on His child having her “toddler temper-tantrum” and said, “Okay, Honey, here you go; try this friend, too.”

The trouble with having friends is that you have to BE one—and it’s SO inconvenient! Friendship involves accountability. If a friend calls me, I am expected to call him back! If a friend comes to my house, I am expected to visit her.

As much as I dislike someone invading my own personal space, I’m far more uncomfortable having to enter someone else’s personal space. Unfortunately, that is one of the requirements of friendship. It’s about relationship; you have to get close enough to other people to be able to relate to them.

Doesn’t Jesus care about my “comfort zone”? Doesn’t He know it’s not my personality, it’s not the culture that I was raised in, it’s not “like me” to walk through the doors of friendship, and enter the personal, private space of other people? I’m not a good friend; I’m lazy, I’m selfish, I’m socially inept. God knows I’m shy, He made me, right? Yes, He cares, He knows, He created me. But, no, it’s no excuse; the devil made me all of those things, not God.

God doesn’t want me to be “me” – He wants me to “be” Jesus! It’s not about me; it’s about being Jesus to lonely, hurting people. WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) Jesus would walk right through my barriers and barricades, just to be with me!

Thank you, my dear friends, for being Jesus to me this week, and forgive me for not reciprocating.

1 comment:

  1. Just a note to say thank you for your writing - for your comment on my blog - and for your honesty about reaching out to others in friendship. Being a pastor's wife can complicate this entire process.

    You touched on some important things. Thank you!