It's easier to keep people out than let them in.
I am far from perfect at friendship, but my constant thoughts about heart-soil, and how much I need to continually cultivate it, means I have to cultivate it in friendships too.
Recently I discovered that something I'd mentioned to a friend had been repeated and twisted. It made me look like a gossip. It destabilised my integrity.
The crazy thing about Jesus, when having accusations hurled at him, or being asked to explain who he was, is that he remained tight-lipped. Even in moments when we would be completely justified to jump to our own defence, and prove our integrity, and somehow prove to the world we've been wronged, the example He set for us was to be still. Not to get defensive, or self-righteous. And to stay soft enough to forgive those who hurt us.
The easiest path would be one that hardens and builds walls. To shut out and switch off.
But bravery says to stay soft. To walk in forgiveness. To cover it with love like the warmest, thickest blanket.
Imagine our hearts are like houses. Welcoming. Inviting. I'm not going to leave you out on the front door step, even if you made a mess last time. If you're knocking, I'm going to let you in. The living room is warm, the couch is soft and I'll let you stay. What won't be staying is bitterness, she can leave. That blanket there? That's hand knitted and heavy, the softest deep grey wool and I'll cover you in it, just like true love covers all sins. Love is going to offer you a seat in my heart.
"Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time." 1 Peter 4:8
Thankfully over the years my circle of friendships has become deeper. I know the ones dancing in this circle are the prayer warriors, the hand lifters, the truth-tellers and the courage-givers.
Expectations of each other are kept low - we are aware of what we each carry, the lives we lead and the priorities we hold. There is no need for comparison or competition - we know that every one of us brings a beauty to the table, and it is celebrated and championed.
And true beauty comes when we take time to use love like a blanket. In our families, in our friendships, in our marriages. When we say, it's okay, I'm going to forget, lets wrap this blanket around our shoulders and just keep walking. Let's share the blanket, because I need love to cover my failings and failures too. I need love to soften the hardness, to cover the bitterness, and to heal the hurt. Love makes up for practically anything.
Dear Jesus, help me to lay down my life for my friends the way you showed your love for us. That I would not rush through moments where I could instead slow, and cover over with love in a practical and generous way. That I would shower in kindness those who've not been kind, that I would walk away from the need to defend myself if I'm wronged. I'm so thankful that You first covered me in Your blanket of love, to show me how it's done. Amen.