When I think of my early days with CCW, I think of a mother taking an angst-filled, reluctant teenager to their school dance. She pulls up to the entrance, puts the car in park, looks straight into her child’s fearful eyes and says, “you need friends.” And she’d been saying this for some time now. First, jokingly. Then, gently. Now, she’s at Luther High School’s parking lot blatantly telling Sam to get out of the car and go have fun.
When I think of my present days with CCW, I think of the same mother displeased with the way this still angst-filled, reluctant teenager is interacting with her friends. Sam doesn’t get it.
“Yes, you have friends. But not really.” Mom persists.
“Yes really. We hang out. We do friend things. I was just with them!”
“Friends are honest.”
Mom drops it. But not really. Sam has fun with her friends. They laugh loud laughs, joke about whether or not the basketball coach and art teacher are a thing, pretend to be walruses with their pretzel sticks. Then, someone mentions their parents’ divorce and things get heavy. Next thing Sam knows, everyone’s talking about broken marriages or daddy issues or their struggle with depression. Sam empathizes. She’ll ask questions, give nods and encouragement. What a nice moment, she thinks.
Until someone asks Sam a question. Something like, “so what about you?” Her heart drops. Sam didn’t realize all this vulnerability was expected back. Driven by fear and distrust, she feigns selflessness by moving the attention to someone else- someone willing. An image of her mother flashes through her head, “friends are honest.”
It’s interesting how the very thing that initially drew me to God is the same thing that pushes me back. I loved the idea of enduring Grace- that my imperfections and flaws, as large as they seemed, were much too small to stop God’s love for me. Now, Grace is hard. Grace is rare. Grace is so contrary to everything I’ve ever experienced.
My recklessness hinders my parents’ hope for me. My inconsistencies lessens my friends’ approval of me. My selfishness reduces my boss’ delight in me. And yet, I’m supposed to believe it doesn’t work this way for God? That God won’t need breathing room? Some space to cool off after I’ve disappointed? Well God deserves it- God deserves the time away from me. And so I give it to Him. I do the distancing myself.
I find that my relationship with God has a direct influence over my relationship with people. Meaning, if I can’t trust the most trustworthy Being in all of existence, it’s no wonder I have no faith in my parents, friends, community, and all in between.
I wonder if my lack of content correlates to my fear of disappointment. That the same walls I’ve built to protect me from the havoc relationships wreak might be the same walls that keep me from the pleasures relationships bring. Because, after all, walls don’t discriminate. They keep out the bad as well as the good. And so my ability to experience the full weight of joy is inhibited by my hesitation to encounter broken people doing broken things.
Thankfully, there’s Grace.
I still don’t get Grace. And maybe I don’t have to. Maybe not getting it, makes it more believable. That this crazy thing is so crazy, it simply can’t be understood. Plus, I like that it’s different. Would I want it if it weren’t? There’s beauty in a “love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19), in “power made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9), in being given gifts “not as the world gives” (John 14:27). That beauty should be embraced. It should be used to guide and empower in kingdom-living.
We won’t get it right all the time. That’s why Jesus did. We’re covered. You’re covered. Be confident in your right to “approach God’s throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16). To lavish in His love for you, approval of you, delight in you. Be motivated by His generosity. It will enable you to extend the same Grace shown to you, to others.
May we build bridges instead of walls. May we invite others in. May we let them hold things. May we not allow the carelessness of past visitors to interfere with our hospitality. May we be honest.
Friends are honest.