I’m getting over a committed and bombastic head cold so please forgive the raw tinge to the audio. I learned my manners as a kid, but it was always hard to say thank you. As an adult, I celebrate the free grace and love of God, emphasizing the freeness of it, with other adults. As well we should. But even when we do admit how hard gratitude can be, we don’t always unpack why. I think we all have our moments where we feel we need to earn love and that we don’t deserve it for free. But why?
For me, I don’t like being a receptacle. I’m sure there’s pride associated with that but I also want to be have a fruitful life and getting stuff for free triggers my fear that I have no purpose or any actual fruit to bear for anyone myself. It seems that God created humanity to be fruitful and that this was before the Fall, so wanting to have a meaningful life and to have something nourishing to show for your labor is not a twisted wound from which I need healing. It is my protracted lack of purpose from which I need healing and freedom.
But this doesn’t give me any right to devalue others’ gifts given to me. Gratitude feels stilted to me, somehow both overly formal and like I’m getting away with something. Someone does something that genuinely blesses me and all I have to do is say thank you? Why do I deserve the better end of the bargain? Yet not acknowledging someone’s efforts to love me is even worse so, to balance out that month of heaviness (starting here and ending here), I’m going to name things that have been either balm, rock or salve for me, particularly recently.
I’ve mentioned her before: my best friend is all of the above. Through the last decade, we’ve indeed had our rough and icy times; at some point, each of us has been convinced that a boulder had fallen the road of our friendship. And we’ve built a new road. Largely, because of her continued pursuit of me. I really struggle with initiating – both because I felt like all my relationships, needs, etc. rested on me as a kid and because it’s hard for me to remember that people may want to hear from me and even spend time with me. I know that my failure to pursue has hurt my best friend; I feel loved when others pursue me, too, especially given how much I felt everything was depending on me growing up. Yet she has given me grace after grace.
She also respects me enough to be honest without me feeling like I have to behave a certain way to “earn” the truth from her. She doesn’t try to hide her story or her shortcomings. I’m not the easiest person to disagree with or challenge, either, but she takes the risk anyway. Without fail. Despite how difficult this church rupture was for her, too, she has continued to process with me, listen to me, pray for me for two roiling years. She has done what I haven’t felt has been done much at all for me: she has stood up for me and defended me at a time when it seemed most were treating me like the enemy or trying to just stay out of it altogether. She’s willing to think and talk deeply about challenging and divisive issues while keeping love at the very center of it all. Her hair-raising story of her childhood makes her mature and continually growing faith just astounding to me; I attribute my beginning to become true in my own pursuit of Christ to this startling faith and also, that she was the first person who said, “Let’s hang out” and actually called me to arrange a time. My favorite thing about my best friend is that she is the same person wherever she goes, whoever she talks to. This world really beats up such pure-hearted people, which is angering and sad, so I know that it costs her to do so.
I would not be taking myself seriously as a writer without her bold and consistent encouragement. I would not be nearly as far along in my healing process from the church explosion as I am today without her; I’d likely still be in the done-with-church phase I had been in for most of the past two years. And I would not be clawing my way through what it means to live in the light and love of God on the earth today. R., you being you has forever changed how I am me.