“Everyone opens their blinds in the morning. It’s weird that you have them closed.” His judgmental tone rang in my ears as he went around the room and pulled open all the bent and broken metal blinds.
He was happy. I was not.
The “Youth House” was on the corner of the church property. A busy suburban corner with lots of car and foot traffic. The rental agreement was part of the terms of our employment. The upstairs was ours exclusively. The downstairs rooms and kitchen were shared with the church. And that’s how our “living room” was also a meeting room.
It was a sweet old house. One of the oldest in the neighborhood. Lots of quirky charm. Lots of potential. Terrible windows. Awful. Single panes, warped aluminum frames, and inexplicably uncleanable glass. We tried cleaning them but the dirt was permanent. (How does that happen?) We tried scraping the mislaid brush strokes from the glass but nothing removed that old, old paint. And, anyway, I didn’t like how exposed our lives were to all the traffic that passed by so I was happy to leave the blinds closed. It felt vulnerable to live in a house with a church sign out front. And at night, when my husband was 45 minutes away working the graveyard shift at the children’s prison (yes, a children’s prison), I wondered how many people could work out that the windows didn’t really lock and how easy it would be to break in. (I should note that my fears were not based in crazy suppositions because several of the youth group kids made a habit of climbing in through a window to wait for us if we weren’t home.) All that to say, it was just better to keep the blinds closed. It was better to keep things all closed up.
He took control of the room. He decided his needs were most important. In fact, I doubt he even thought there could be needs apart from his. I doubt it even crossed his mind. I wish he’d asked. I wish he’d cared. But he didn’t. So I had to sit in that meeting feeling embarrassed and exposed. Embarrassed that the windows were so dirty even though it wasn’t my fault. And exposed to the view of all the passersby. When the meeting ended and everyone was gone, I closed the blinds.
And I decided to move the meetings to a coffee shop where I didn’t have to feel embarrassed or exposed.
_ _ _
Fourteen years ago we became fast friends when were thrown together on a youth ministry team. She and I have gone through a lot together. A lot. We’ve planned and dreamed together. We’ve prayed and cried. We’ve giggled and celebrated. We’ve ministered to hundreds of teens together. We’ve shared and forgiven. She knows things about me that no one else knows. And in my darkest moments, she is the person I have called the most. She is wise, loving, and she hears God’s voice.
At our latest coffee date she said, “I can tell you anything because I know that you love me and won’t judge me.”
Took the words right out of my mouth, sister! Our friendship is very special. Vulnerability, transparency, and a sisterhood that overcomes.
With her, I have open blinds.
_ _ _
Everyone has reasons to live blinds-closed. Everyone has something they want to hide. Something that is best left unseen. Something that makes them feel at risk. Something that makes them feel too vulnerable.
As I listen to the friendship stories of women around me, I hear themes of judgment, rejection, pain, and humiliation. Of being attacked, ridiculed and unloved. And over time these women of deep beauty have pulled closed their blinds and walked away from being in community. And in the process they have closed themselves off from much needed sisterhood and friendship.
What is the answer? How can we have what we were made for? Love and sisterhood. Lives intertwined. The joy of being known. Of being truthful and vulnerable. How can we have friendship? Why is there so much pain involved in the friendships of women? It’s a tragedy.
I’ve been thinking about this lately. I’ve been thinking about how my best friendships were formed. Looking to see if there are any keys that could help me build more deep friendships. Looking to see if there is a way to avoid the ones that are bent for failure. To discern who is a friend worth pursuing.
As I’ve thought about it, there seems to be three things that my deep and special sisterhood friendships have in common. Maybe these will help others who are looking to open their blinds and build beautiful friendships.
1. Friendship forged in the midst of ministry
All of my deepest girlfriends came into my life through ministry. We were teamed together. We served side-by-side. We were putting our passions and gifts into action. And we got to watch each other before our friendships were formed. I watched them in powerful ministry situations. I saw them lean on the Holy Spirit for answers. I saw their gifts, qualities and character in full force. And I became a fan before we were friends. Serving side-by-side is a great way to see what someone is made of.
2. Friendship strengthened through adversity
Each of my closest friends have been through terribly difficult times and allowed me to be part of their journey. In the same way, my deepest friendships are with women who drew near to me in my darkest days. They held me when I mourned. They brought meals when I was emotionally vacant. They came around me and my little family when we were shadows. When others felt awkward, they stayed. When others felt neglected by me, they invested the full measure of our relationship need. And as we minister back and forth in times of need, our friendships have grown even stronger. Walking with someone in difficult times is a great way to serve and build a friendship.
(Relationship Resource : I was hugely inspired by a wonderful webinar called “Relational Basics” by counselor, Jennifer Lubanski. The webinar is designed for families and caregivers of children with autism but the content spans all kinds of relationships. The material about “giving 100% to a relationship,” changed my approach to friendships. Jenn’s material gave me practical tips for investing in relationships when they are unable to reciprocate. And also helped me to measure the cost of relationships in different seasons. I’m a better friend and wife and mother because of this webinar series. Absolutely worth blocking out some time to watch them all.)
3. Friendship that challenges and encourages
My dearest friends challenge me. We are not the same. We are not identical in mind or heart. We come from hugely different backgrounds and cultures. But one thing we have in common is a mutual committed to learn from the other. Like iron sharpens iron. My best friends are not my easiest relationships but they are the deepest. We have wrestled through times of offense and pain. We have pursued mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. There is a unique depth of friendship that comes when you allow your friends to be tools of God’s discipleship and sanctification process. Sharing Faith and growth journeys is great way to build a deep friendship.
(Relationship Resource: “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere is an incredible relationship study. I didn’t realize how easily offendable I was. Chapter after chapter gives much-needed heart surgery for all kinds of relationships. Thoroughly changed the way I relate to people and the expectations I have of my friends, family and leaders. This would be a great study to do with friends to build your relationships.)
I wish there was a magic solution for the friendship quest we all seem to be on. If only there was a quick and easy way to build a deep and solid friendship. But maybe the journey towards friendship is as beautiful as the friendship itself? It’s worth the risk. Open your blinds.
Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul. (Proverbs 27:9 Msg)
On the topic of friendship and community, check out this Thread-bare Momma post by Elissa Peterson:
“Building Community – This isn’t about me, is it?”