This morning I Googled sayings about friends.
I came across the ever popular (yet slightly true): “Good friends don’t let you do stupid things…alone.”
I liked this one: “A good friend knows all of your stories; a best friend has lived them with you.”
This one rang quite true for me, “A true friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes while everyone else believes the smile on your face.”
I’m pretty good at painting a smile on my face; I think we all are, really. We tend to let people see only what we want them to see and nothing more. We’re proficient at putting up barriers and pretending that everything is just fine. Part of it is common sense. I am asked at least one hundred times a day (at work) how I’m doing. In most cases, it wouldn't be appropriate to answer anything other than the usual, “I’m great, thanks!” But sometimes, my insides are screaming at me, “I’m NOT great! I’m feel like I’m being swallowed up with sadness/anger/guilt/confusion etc.”
This seems especially true, for me at least, at church. I've perfected the Sunday Smile and am able to, for a few hours, pretend that everything is excellent when in reality my life is a mess. Have you done that? I’ll bet you have. Even if your life isn't in some kind of a major upheaval, think about the times when you've had an argument with your spouse or a rough morning with your kids, and then you pull into the church parking lot, affix the smiles, and off you go as if life were all hearts and flowers.
I’m not picking on churches here, please don’t get me wrong. I’m simply pointing out that even in the place where it should be safe and acceptable to be our authentic selves, we tend to hide it. While it is fine and appropriate that we are guarded when we choose to be, after all we shouldn't be blubbering idiots all the time, it’s terribly important that we have people that we can be open and honest with, people with whom we can be our true selves regardless of what that looks like.
That being said, I've got a few friends, a few friends who are extremely dear to me, who are able to easily look past the smile and see the real me. God has blessed me with a few friendships that have grown over years, decades really, of walking through life together. They know me, the real me, and for some unexplained reason they still seem to like me! In the past year I have leaned on them far more than ever before, and they have been there. They love me unconditionally, they comfort me when I’m hurting, and they call me on the carpet when I've done something stupid. Whether is a huge crisis or a late-night-before-you’re-leaving-town toothache, they’re there for me.
So here’s one last quote, just for them.