Here it is, folks. This little post is the sprout of a seed planted in my heart when I was like 8 years old. It’s a plant that I’m so terrified to water or tend, and it is very, very weedy – my own secret garden of pains and regrets. I don’t want anyone to read this and have their feelings hurt because they consider me a dear friend; I would ache to know my pain caused someone else hurt. Mainly I don’t want anyone to know how painful this actually is for me, and how many tears I’ve shed over 20 years of trying to figure it out, and I’ve worked very hard to not “reveal the real” to anyone, which is not like me at all – I strive for authenticity in anything possible. In that striving, the Holy Spirit is constantly prompting me – share. Tell about it. Use it to point to me.
So here it is. The ugly truth. The part of myself I can barely admit out loud even to Ryan.
The truth is, I don’t know how to make friends. I’ve never had a “person.” I don’t know what it is like to have a platonic friendship that is equally yoked. I don’t know what to do to make this happen. But I have ached desperately, cried thousands of tears, been uncontrollably angry, or felt defeated and hopeless for it at least once every single day since as early as 1996.
I moved a lot growing up – life of a pastor’s kid. Moving a lot made it hard to get close to people – every time I made best buddies, we’d leave, and that was before long-distance friendships were realistic thanks to social media. Most notably, I moved after 8th grade, 10th grade, and then I went off to college, which are all huge transition times which most people face with a buddy to help them cope. I was a mess back then – I was so desperate to be known and loved but I had a lot of kinks to work out. I was pushy, a know-it-all, a bulldozer, I always had to be right, I was proud, and I was abrasive. I look back on my interactions with people, and I ache for the Lord to have intervened to teach me mercy and compassion earlier. I know it came in his perfect timing, but it is hard to be glad about who I was before he got hold of me. I always entered situations thinking I needed to severely edit myself in order to be liked. This resulted in a blob of indistinct personality traits combined most of the time with lies to make myself seem more interesting and my true fiery personality spitting out intermittently, which made me even less likable. I found myself never truly close to anyone and always feeling like something was wrong with me.
In college, the pressure cooker of close-quarters living and the constant presence of people who loved the same thing I did caused lots of close friendships very quickly. I will treasure and love my college girls every day forever. But even those friendships weren’t as close at the time as I thought they were – while I certainly don’t hold grudges by any means, I wasn’t asked to stand in a single one of their weddings. I used to ache about that – wasn’t I close enough with any of them to be a bridesmaid? But, truly, I think it is because they had friends from growing up and friends post-college who were just closer, or they were just closer with each other than they were with me. It wasn’t that they didn’t love me; it’s just that they had closer others and had to draw the line somewhere – in the Midwest, we don’t have 17 bridesmaids in our weddings! I was able to easily let go of the hurt feelings when I realized that it simply wasn’t about me – I was involved in almost all of their weddings in some capacity, and I treasure dearly being asked to participate in those ways. But I always found myself wondering – when is it my turn? What did those gals do to make their best friends? When will I be someone’s absolute bestie? When will it be Meredith and Christina? CeCe and Jess Day? Phoebe and Monica and Rachel?
At this point, I think I’ve worked through it emotionally and spiritually from just about every angle. Specifically, for the past five years, I have asked God daily (sometimes hourly and sometimes minute-ly) to please give me a small group of super close girlfriends who I can trust and who love me exactly as I am but still spur me to grow. And even just one soulmate-sister who just gets me and has time and desire to pursue a friendship – even just one woman who I can laugh my butt off with and maybe share clothes with and live our wild lives together and randomly eat dinner together or go running or drink coffee or ditch our fams for selfish girl time or go for a weekend to a cabin for rejuvenation time or whatever. I’m not picky – I will take on a new hobby to have a friend like that! Do they love sewing quilts? Me too! Do they love swimming long distances or kayaking or something? Me too! I see others with these friendships, and I’m not proud at all to admit I just covet!
God has blessed me with tons of casual friendships with women who I find inspiring, caring, kind, open, hospitable, wise, and Godly. We are regularly invited to be with lots of great people who we love dearly, but I find myself unable to cross the invisible barrier between “bud” and “bestie.” I don’t feel comfortable just inviting myself over to anyone’s house or just asking them to hang – like what if I’m bothering them or they are definitely too busy or they already have a bestie? Or when I do get up the guts to ask and hang out, I really don’t want to annoy them by being needy, so I won’t ask more than once to hang out, and they are usually too busy or full to ask us the next time. We’re all just so tired. Life is exhausting at this phase. I understand that, truly, but I still want a bestie. I have put so much into this need for a best friend that I am afraid of the pain if it doesn’t work out. (I’m always afraid of pain – classic enneagram 7 trait.)
I remember being sad and alone and unloved in middle school, and I don’t want to go back to that.
So instead, I sit idly by, wishing for relationships that I have no idea how to foster into the closeness that I deeply desire.
Oh, and I can’t forget to mention my deep-seeded fears that I’m not worth knowing deeply and that I’m inherently the most annoying person on the planet. Can’t you see the hold Satan has on me? He tells me lie after lie and I believe him! I deeply, deeply believe him. Who knows how many Jewels out there are sitting in their living rooms dreaming of friendship like me but won’t pursue either because of fear and lies?
I’ve been through all kinds of phases with this over the years:
-The “new acquaintance – oh she could be the one” phase
-The “that group of girls or that particular girl is so easy to be myself around, maybe this is it” phase
-The “disappointment because I wasn’t invited so I must not be good enough” phase
-The “I’ll invite people and pursue these relationships myself because I have to be brave enough to initiate” phase
-The “don’t ask God for it because he’ll provide it in his time, just wait” phase
-The “God is my best friend so I don’t need earthly friends and I’m using the concept of friendship as an idol so I need to work that out” phase
-The “friends I’m dreaming of don’t actually exist” phase
-The “this can’t ever happen for me because these people have all known each other since childhood and I’ll never have that” phase
-The “God calls us into community, so why doesn’t anybody like me” phase
-The “maybe I don’t have friendships like this because God wants to use that hurt for his kingdom so I’m okay with it” phase
-The “I’m so lonely that I’m going to talk at you for an hour and drive you nuts” phase
-The “this is totally unrealistic to want in my current phase of life” phase
-And currently I’m in the “God always provides, and he’ll provide this in his time, so I’m going to fervently and faithfully pray each day and let community grow wherever he places it” phase.
Can I just talk for a minute about how beautiful it has been since God brought me to this current phase? I’ve noticed how self-centered this whole thing has been – I want a friend because I need it, like my kids in the toy aisles in Target. Why doesn’t anyone like me, like the whiny teen who hasn’t been asked to prom yet. Why can’t I have what I want, like the entitled princess I am but wish I wasn’t. Me me me!
How can I place this crown at the altar?
Then again, God does call us to live in community. We’re supposed to do life with each other, so my desires for these friendships are not sinful.
How can I place this crown at the altar and still pursue deep friendships?
I’ve also worked through why I should even bother asking. God is going to do his will, and his will is always better than my idea of how it should go, so what’s the point of even asking? It’ll go how he wants it to go, and that’s fine. He knows better anyway. So why even ask? In my prayers, God has revealed to me the answer – I should ask because he tells us to (see I John 5:14-15, Romans 8:26, John 16:24, John 15:7, Philippians 4:6-7, and Hebrews 4:16, as a few examples). It is a practice of faith to continue asking for what I want, dreaming of it without ceasing, but also finding a way to be okay with never receiving it if that’s his plan. That is faith. The assurance of things hoped for and the certainty of things unseen. In my practice of surrendering my need for a BFF, I am learning better how to trust my God and be faithful with a consistent prayer.
I still wish for that special someone to do pedicures with who knows I wouldn’t mind one bit to keep her kids if she has a last-minute doc appointment and has no childcare. I wish for a friend who would come hang with me in my classroom while I prepare it for the school year. I wish for a friend I can secretly bake things for and sneak into her house to leave on her counter like a creep because we are BEST FRIENDS and that isn’t weird. I wish for a friend to pray with about our deepest hearts’ desires. Most of all, I wish for a friend who sees exactly who I am – the ugly and the beautiful – and calls me up into God’s grace and growth.
I don’t know if this is real or impossible, but I know that God has blessed me greatly since I started regularly bringing this desire to him. That’s the key, isn’t it? He is the only one who is enough.
I don’t know how to end a post like this – a post about a prayer that hasn’t been answered. But I pray that if you are facing anything like this, that you are encouraged by my wish and my struggle. You’re not alone, and you’re not supposed to be.
One last thing I’ll add – in this ache, I went through one phase where I felt like I had absolutely no one. This was during the time when I had given up on asking God for what I wanted. I felt terribly alone and unloved. But I was wrong. When the Holy Spirit prompted me to pray for what I wanted, I was able to see what I do already have – there are beautiful people in my life constantly encouraging and supporting me, constantly praying for me, accepting me and pushing me onward, living this life for Christ along-side me. While I don’t have that bestie that I dream of, God is so good in my relationships. Are you in a place where you have an unanswered prayer, and your heart is hardened about it? Ask him.
And let us keep humbly asking.
Ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. Luke 11:9 (and Matthew 7:7)
Wait on the LORD. Be of good courage, and he will strengthen your heart. Psalm 27:14