If you’ve been an authentic friend for any period of time, you know it’s synonymous with messy.
Mamas, messy friendship is best understood as the sometimes state of our home.
Think of the dishes, platters and wine glasses piled high after a really good dinner party. The crumbs and icing fingerprints on the dessert plates. The night was filled with story after story, eyes looking into eyes, dim light, flowers and waxy candles. You can’t have that much love and joy without the mess.
Think of the ping pong balls, candy wrappers, ten thousand water bottles and empty food containers draping your home after a multitude of teenagers have come and gone all weekend. They’ve eaten eight times a day. Laughed and talked at your dining room table. Crashed on your living room couch. You are happy and your house is messy.
Think of Saturday morning after a hard, busy week with little time at home. Dishes in the sink. Full kitchen trash can. Backpacks by the door. Mail on the counter. Clothes on the floor. The week ended in success but not without a mess at home.
(I don’t have an image for this one. Obviously.)
Messy isn’t bad. It’s what happens when you live authentically.
Friendship is the same way.
Whether you are on the look out for new friends. Reconnecting with old. Standing in places of tension with a current friend. A commitment to authentic is messy.
My grown-up story of friendship started about a decade ago when my two besties moved away. To no fault of their own, I was left with two small kids, the aftermath of the real estate market crash – – which means we were broke – and my dad’s cancer diagnosis. It could not have been a worse time to be left all alone.
Despite all of that, I genuinely sought out friends. I volunteered at my kid’s new school. I showed up at the weekly women’s work out. I asked questions and listened to other moms hoping to find a connection point and exchange numbers. I shared openly at bible study.
Sometimes that meant someone pulled me in and showed me the way. Sometimes that meant I had to weather the uncomfortable of not knowing anyone in the room. Sometimes that meant I determined who I didn’t want to be friends with.
That’s the way of messy. But after years of showing up and loving and giving of myself in the best way I knew how, friendships formed.
Once you find an imperfect place of belonging, the messy remains.
Over the last few years, I’ve experienced a necessary distance from someone I held so very dear to my heart. I experienced a friend pass me up for others over a point of hurt I never fully understood. I’ve felt a bit of frost from a friend that I hoped to be close to but found myself on the periphery.
This is part of living messy, authentic friendship. If you never, ever hurt, then you never, ever loved or cared with your full self in the first place.
Friendship can only be authentic when you love hard and care too much. Unless you are willing to get beyond the clean surface of your shiny kitchen counter, you will never find the layers of mess that sometimes lead to lifetime friendship.
Messy, authentic friendship means that you give time that you don’t feel you have. You give your gifts of love and care without a demand for a return. And, most importantly, you forgive wholeheartedly even if it takes many moons to get there.
On this road of time, care and forgiveness, some friends will move on. Some will stay on the periphery. And some will stay forever.
Often, we say that the gift is in the journey. However, I would say, with authentic friendship, the gift is eventually finding your people, your person, your tribe. The gift is truly wrapped up in the friend. The messy describes the journey.
There will be repeated obstacles when you choose to be an authentic friend in search of other authentic friends. It’s like the dinner party, the slew of teenagers in your home or a long work week. All wreak havoc on a clean, orderly home – or shall I say, your heart. But, a perpetually clean home has no war stories, joy songs or happy memories to laugh and share.
You certainly could choose to stay neat all the time. You certainly could choose to avoid the pain, work and loss of authentic friendship. You could.
But then, my sister, you would be defying all that God wrote about in His great book of life. He is the author of redemption. He creates beauty from ashes. He makes something of nothing. He allows some taking to exponentially bless on the other side. He expects mistakes so that He can show the way. Although His narrative is clean, reliable and orderly, the story line is wiped with tears, terrifying roller coasters and moments of unknown and anticipation.
If this is His story, then this is your story if you will embrace it.
He is never alone, and He gives you the gift of never being alone. His gifts are perfect, and He has already paid the price for the messy you will encounter as an authentic friend.