The doorbell rings and my seven-year-old answers. He’s our most out-going child, counting everyone a friend. Because it’s usually someone under the age of ten ringing the bell anyway, I keep working and happily allow him the privilege of being doorman.
But, this time it’s not a little red-haired girl asking to play. It’s an adult at the door. A neighbor. I get up to greet her and as I walk the thirty or so steps to our front door my mind races through this series of thoughts:
- Am I still wearing my pajamas? (It’s after 3:30pm . . .)
- Did I brush my teeth this morning? (Like I said, it’s after 3:30pm . . .)
- What does my hair look like? (Yikes!)
- Why does every child have to leave their socks and shoes strewn all over the hallway to the front door?
- My house is a disaster. . .
I say “Hello” and invite her in, but she refuses. I’m secretly glad, not because I don’t want to talk to her but because I feel embarrassed. If she crosses the door’s threshold, my secrets are exposed. She’ll see the mess of my real life. The holes in the armpits of my husband’s Marine Corps t-shirt from 1993. The food stuck in my teeth from lunch. The dishes precariously piled beside the already full sink. The gorgeous table that my husband made for me last Christmas, covered in school papers and books, such that not one square inch of the top is visible.
Should she come in, she’ll see the truth. I’m a wreck.
It’s safer for us to talk through the door frame.
Ask any of my friends from college and they’ll assure you I’m an extrovert. Much like my seven-year-old son, I rarely knew a stranger. I worked very hard to memorize people’s names and facts about them. I enjoyed making friends and getting to know people.
But, I struggle to go deep. I’m a whole lot more comfortable with having oodles of semi-deep relationships than I am at having a few bosom buddies.
Honestly, I find friendship difficult. I firmly believe that God has designed us to have and need friends. I see the relevance and importance of community, especially in the life of a Christian. And, yet . . .sometimes I’m a lot more comfortable having a conversation with you while you stand outside my door, rather than asking you to, “Come on in!”
Maybe you’re the same?
I recently met, yet another Christian woman who was struggling with something deep. I asked her if she’d talked to anyone about the issue. She confessed she hadn’t.
I asked her about her church, did she have friends there?
Her answers, “Well, yes. Of course.”
“So, they know about all this?” I ask.
“No, we don’t talk about things like this.” She responds.
“Then, are they really your friends?”
(I want to say this. But, I don’t.) If I point a finger at her, I know I have three more pointing back at me. I spent years in church without any real friends. I know this posture well. The door to my heart stayed locked. No one ever came in.
Friendship Requires Crossing the Threshold
In an age where we have to clarify people we know with the acronym “IRL” (in real life) as to not confuse them from people we only know from social media, the definition of true friendship seems squishy at best.
How do you know if you have real friends?
Real friends have crossed your threshold.
Real friends know your mess. They know that if they ring your door bell at 3:30 in the afternoon they may find you in your husband’s green USMC t-shirt with un-brushed teeth.
Real friends don’t want to hear you’re fine. They know that anytime a woman uses the word “fine” to describe her state of being, she’s usually not.
Real friends aren’t afraid of the real you. That’s how you know they’re real friends.
My friend and small group leader recently shared with our group that she once hesitated as she confessed a whole bunch of junk to a friend. The friend reassured her, over and again with, “I’m not going anywhere. It’s safe to tell me.”
I loved that.
Don’t we all want to feel safe?
How “IRL” Friends Will Change Your Life
I love blogging yet, simultaneously, blogging makes me sad. Why?
Because a lot of women turn to reading blogs for encouragement and affirmation that they could be getting from authentic friendships. This is why Christian women blogs are so incredibly popular. Women need to be lead and facilitated into Gospel-centenred friendships, and that’s not happening enough in our Christian communities.
I’ve been told I have a conversational tone and people consider me their friend after reading my words for a while. If you’ve felt that way, I absolutely want you to know you do have a friend, sojourner, and sympathizer in me. I’m here for you. I love that we have been able to connect!
But, at the same time, I can’t hug each of my readers when they experience hurt. I can’t encourage you face-to-face on that day when the mirror just won’t stop tormenting you. I can’t make you dinner when you are sick. Neither can I call out for you the ways I see God has uniquely gifted you.
You need IRL friends to do that.
Do you crave this kind of friendship? If so, can I encourage you with some truth? Other women need that too. We all desire it. We’re just all a little afraid. We’re afraid that if people cross the threshold into our real lives they’ll see how messy our hearts truly are.
But, I believe you can be brave.
Ask her to coffee. Invite her and her children over for a playdate and don’t spend hours stressing over what your house looks like. Have a dinner party. If you’re married, plan a double date for you and another couple.
Y’all! We spend too much time virtually having fun and connecting and not enough time doing it IRL. And, thus, we sink deeper into our holes of insecurity, uncertainty and anxiety. We fight depression and loneliness, some of which could be fended off with a one-hour outing at Starbucks.
Do you have friends? IRL friends? Friends that have crossed the threshold? I pray you do. If not, I pray you’ll be brave and find them.