Monday, November 9, 2015

STRADDLING THE PICKET FENCE OF FRIENDSHIP

While our youngest son was home from college for the weekend, he asked me how many true friends I have. When one’s eighteen-year-old, who is exploring his new world away from home, asks something like that, the writer puts down her pen and settles into a verbal, son-initiated (gasp!) conversation. I treasured every minute of our hour-long exchange. It took me back years to a ladies Sunday school class where I found myself straddling the fence—of the picket variety, with spear-like points that make one intensely uncomfortable. On one side of the fence was my reaction to the topic of “friendship,” as introduced by the story of Ruth and Naomi: Friends are all good and well, I thought, but one must be cautious. On the other side of that fence was the thought: How wonderful to have a “to the ends of the earth friend” like Ruth. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends and wasn’t a friend. It’s that my introverted personality, combined with painful experiences as a teenager, made me cautious with the depth of friendship. And so I continued to straddle the fence until our leader, a beautiful, God-breathing woman, demonstrated what the Lord intended when he commanded us to love one another.

She asked if one of our ladies would read a passage from the book of Ruth and pause after each sentence. Then she knelt before a surprised lady and, with each pause between sentences, put Ruth’s words into her own words while holding the woman’s gaze with an intensity that made me duck my head behind my Bible (I do not do drama).

Ruth 1:16-17: Don’t force me to leave you. Don’t make me turn back from following you. Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and I will be buried there with you. May the Lord strike me down if anything but death separates you and me!” (God’s Word Translation)

After the second sentence, I peeked at the scene. Back to my Bible. Deep breath. Another peek. A glance at the floor. My, I mused, I really ought to repaint my toenails. Maybe one more peek. That last time, I made it through the end of our leader’s demonstration without looking away. And when she rose before the speechless, visibly moved recipient, it was obvious we were all affected. I was awed…and touched…and needy. At the risk of vulnerability, I had to get off the fence on the side of Ruth. Not that I was ready to toss out the teabag tag I had been holding onto for years that quotes sixteenth-century Diane de Poitiers: To have a good enemy, choose a friend; he knows where to strike. But the reminder to never allow a friend too near didn’t belong on my refrigerator door. Baby steps…

That was years ago, and I continue to take baby steps with friendship, but what joy to look back and see all those steps have added up to strides. We’re commanded to love one another, and so I continue to work toward gaining friends—and being a friend—like Ruth. We should all be so blessed and a blessing to others.

14 comments:

  1. Wow. Yes. This so resonates. Friendship is risky. And when you've been badly burned--or have been the one doing the burning--(I, unfortunately, have been on both sides of the fire) it makes it that much harder. Thanks for sharing, Tamara.

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    1. Thank you for sharing, too, Serena! Yes, that fire has two sides to it, doesn't it? Blessings, dear friend!

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  2. Wow, this is me! My hubby is the opposite and I quite often find myself wanting to say "See? That's why I don't make friends". But, he is patient with me and this post says it all. It IS risky, but so much can come out of it if we try to be like Ruth. Thank you for the kick in the pants again. :) I needed it!

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    1. My pleasure, Susan! Despite good intentions and what I know to be true, I still have to give myself a good kick in the pants from time to time :) Have a great week!

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  3. Tamara,
    Thanks for sharing something so personal. I actually am a bit of both. I crave friends but must of the time I think, "Oh, they don't want to be my friend I'm too....." I was always the last one picked for things or pairing up. But now I just go up to people and start talking. I'm at an age where I don't care if my kids think I'm crazy to talk to people in a grocery line, maybe there's someone out there who can use a friend to listen to them OR bring them a smile. More often than not it brings a smile to me.

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    1. Hey, Marylin! I'm glad you stopped by and so appreciate you sharing your own experiences. If I wasn't the last one picked for pairing up, I was pretty close to it. Talk about "ouch!" What a blessing to be older and wiser and freer :)

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  4. Tamara,
    In life one can have lots of acquaintances but also have those special close friends forever. I agree with Marylin and my kids think I am crazy also. I guess I start up conversations in stores , in lines, at the Doctors and my kids give me that look-- oh no here we go again. I think God has given me the gift of being an Encourager and I just know when someone in my pathway just needs a smile , a word of kindness or just a - how are you today.
    I have friends and yet I find I enjoy time alone and I like my own friendship also.
    I know that each step I take Christ is with me and I am never alone . What a friend we have in Jesus!!!

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Elsie. My older sister sounds just like you--striking up conversations left and right and encouraging those who just need a kind word or even just to be seen. You are so right--what a friend we have in Jesus. Wishing you a lovely day.

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  5. Thank you so much Tam for the gift of this blog site. I have signed up as a subscriber and look forward to reading more tidbits like your "straddling the fence" post. You certainly hit the nail on the head. I loved the description you gave of how this lady demonstrated the words of Ruth - and they are such powerful words. It was these verses from Ruth that my husband and I wanted included in our marriage ceremony 30 years ago. I have always viewed these verses as a commitment of one person to another - as my husband and I made our vows to each other. But I'll admit, I had never thought of them in the terms of friendship before - but they are very appropriate and needed. A pastor friend of ours was teaching one Wednesday night on communication in marriage and on the needs of a woman and the needs of a man. He said that the greatest need of a man is to feel respected and the greatest need of a woman is to feel secure. And that has always stuck with me. Being a friend involves putting yourself on a "vulnerable ledge" - - you have to be willing to be transparent, to risk letting another person really know you, to be brave enough to speak the truth in love rather that be a word of correction, a word of praise, or constructive instruction - and allow your friend the same rights in your life. You have to "be there" in good times and bad. And not just be a side-line cheerleader - but if there is something you can do, then roll up your sleeves and get in there and do it. To be a true friend you must be brave, and risk possibly being misunderstood - - but a friend will know your efforts and motive is founded on love. Yes - it's risky business - but as you said - we're commanded to love one another - and occasionally we're blessed with having a Ruth come into our life - and then the reward of taking that risk is priceless and precious. Thank you for sharing this story Tamara - and thank you for your friendship - it has meant the world to me!

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    1. Oh that is so beautiful about your wedding ceremony, Pam. Such perfect verses to include in a lifelong commitment. Thank you for your added insight. You are so wise, dear Barefoot Believer. Keeping you and Eddie in my thoughts and prayers.

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  6. WOW thanks for being so transparent, Tamara. I can totally relate. Only in the past few years have I learned how to be a more deliberate friend and cultivate closer friendships. But I've also had to learn how to set boundaries and step away from toxic or negative relationships, so I can completely understand what you're saying. It's hard to learn to trust people when there are so many people who intentionally or unintentionally hurt you. What I've found is that God really has taught me how to trust not necessarily people, but Himself. I've been a Christian for so long that I never realized that I had trust issues with God, too. I still have trust issues, but I'm learning. :)
    Camy

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    1. I appreciate your thoughtful comments, Camy. We never stop learning, do we? Always looking for the right balance. Getting closer :)

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  7. I struggle so much with having true friends. I have several acquaintances but not a close friend. I was inspired and convicted by your description of the Bible Study Leader reading the passage in Ruth. I am striving to reach out in friendship more by leaving my apartment and visiting others instead of waiting for them to come knocking on my door.

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  8. I struggle so much with having true friends. I have several acquaintances but not a close friend. I was inspired and convicted by your description of the Bible Study Leader reading the passage in Ruth. I am striving to reach out in friendship more by leaving my apartment and visiting others instead of waiting for them to come knocking on my door.

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