Day 8: Threads
[I found this unfinished piece of writing I wrote maybe a year ago, and recently polished it. So it's longer than most of my #write31days blogs and quite personal. Enjoy, but be gracious please.]
Some time a little while back I attended a party, or a show rather, where I thought I might run into an old friend of mine. I wasn't there to see him, mind you; in fact, I had shown up with somebody else entirely and realized this other friend might be there only after I'd already arrived. The whole night, though, I was a little on edge at the thought of running into him. Things have just been so... awkward between us lately. No, we never had a falling out per se, it's just that we aren't near as close as we used to be. Which is a natural thing to happen to a friendship, except when it happens suddenly and is prompted only by one party and not the other.
Thankfully it was a pretty big shindig and our paths never crossed. Except, well... maybe I wanted them to. Maybe I wanted to see my old friend. Sure it would have hurt to be suddenly and inescapably confronted by the source of my ego-bruising. But I'd also have gotten to see him. And I miss this friend. No matter how much he hurt me, no matter how I abandoned by him I feel, I love this friend.
I wonder though, all the time, whether it would be easier to just stop caring, whether I would be better off. Because it kills me, this raw, aching nerve inside my chest which so often impels me to chase after and pour love out toward those who hurt and abandon me. Sometimes it gets so I just wish I could cut the line between us, cut loose all these poisonous relationships in my life and live in solitary comfort.
Then I think again. Back to a certain time, a couple years back:
For whatever reason, one of the most profoundly unhappy periods of my life happened to coincide with one of the most financially secure. My first year of college I had more money than I knew what to do with. Scholarships had more than accounted for the cost of my schooling, and I got all the extra funds in pocket, some several thousand dollars to spend at my leisure. With it I bought a lap top, a brand new 42 inch plasma screen TV, an iPad, new music, food, blah blah blah. It was so much more than I could have ever imagined for somebody like me, someone from the lower-lower-lower middle class. And I was miserable.
Please believe I don't mean to sound ungrateful; I have been so blessed to attend college and live comfortably when so many others scramble every day to do the same. What I do mean to highlight, though, is that no amount of money, and not one of those things I bought could make me one ounce happier, not while I was struggling (and failing) to make new friends at a new school. I spent most of my waking hours alone that year, playing with my shiny new toys, losing myself in stories, in novels, television shows, movies and games while silently bemoaning my inability to break into my school's social scene. All the stuff, none of the people. I was half a man.
Then, of course, there is the big thread, the life line which ties each of us to God. Sometimes (too infrequently) I tug on this God line and He pulls me up and out of the murky waters. Throughout these last few weeks, which have turned out to be some of the hardest of my life, I have yanked on the God line so often and with such panic it is a wonder I at no point yanked God clean out of heaven.
Some people don't believe in God, and I respect that, I really do. It's just... it's harder for me to believe there's nobody on the other end of that line orchestrating these rescue missions. I know I'm being lifted out of the mess just when I need to breathe; it only makes sense there's somebody doing the lifting, and it sure as heck isn't me.
Apart from the big thread I have thousands of other, thinner strings connecting me to my friends, my siblings, parents, grandparents, acquaintances and strangers. Whenever I first cross paths with another soul we are suddenly and irreversibly tethered together into a wide, complex network of human relationships. These links never really sever, no matter how much pain and heartache it would save us if they on occasion would.
Which means this thread between my estranged friend and me is still intact. It may be thinner, thinner than ever, but it is still there, a fact which brings me solace some days, pain most others, but which ultimately means I don't get to give up on him. I don't get to ignore somebody God put in my life for me to love.
I think back again to that year, the bad year. It was in the midst of that year I met this friend. He facebook messaged me, totally out of the blue, without ever having even met me. And I'll never forget the first thing he said: "I love you." Needless to say I was a little floored, but I knew instinctively in that moment I had "met" someone worth meeting. So our friendship flourished in the fertile soil of my lonely life, each of us wanting for some sort of companionship and settling for the other, over facebook messages and skype conversations, a hundred miles separating us. We stayed up most nights talking, video chatting. We talked about our pasts, our love lives, struggles, our common faith in God. And so it went for that year, and steadily for most of the three years I spent in college.
I can't quite trace how or why the whole thing has gone south since. Maybe I was clingy, maybe a touch too stern. Perhaps, in hopes of being a good influence, I came off as lecturing or patronizing. I don't know. I know I've tried so hard to be a loving presence in his life. I know I gave no small part of myself, but beyond that I have nothing else to work with. Now he keeps me not at arm's length but city's length away, and I am left with the occasional tug at my heartstrings: all that's left of a once-strong friendship.
So I pray. I pray because my other options are spent. I pray because I know God is listening, and loves me, even when all others forsake me. Even while I feel abandoned by those nearest and dearest, I have not lost God. So I scoop up the shattered bits of my heart and pour them out at His feet.
And I pray that some time, maybe even at the resurrection of the dead, that God will bring our friendship back to life too. I hope sooner but I'm too exhausted from disappointment to count on it.
I pray also for thanks, a thousand thank yous for the thousand moments of grace and love dispensed by God Himself through this friend of mine. After all, it was a gift of pure grace, this friendship. It saw me through an otherwise impossible year, a fact which I must neither forget nor take for granted. God gave me a friend just when I needed one, and though I miss him terribly, I will survive without him. I will hope to see him again, trusting him to God, and in the meantime pray down the thread and hope it makes its way back to his own heart.
I am better off with even the most painful tugs on these strings, because they mean I am human, and that I am open to love. Were God to cut even one of these lines he would compromise the whole web, I know that now. I know this is God's plan, for us to feel truly and deeply for one another, risking heartbreak because to do less would be to fall short of being human.
And what a blessing it is to be human, threads and all.
"Any moment, eating lunch, washing my hair, I'm aware of all my people. Wherever they are. And I carry them, ya know? Otherwise they might slip away. And then what?"
- Nancy Botwin (Weeds)