You might’ve heard I run with a dangerous crowd,
we ain’t too pretty, we ain’t too proud.
We might be laughing a bit too loud,
but that never hurt no one.
-Billy Joel, “Only the Good Die Young”
Why do I have such good friends? And how can they possibly be so different from each other?
I’ve been obsessed with the idea of friendship lately.
The reason is that I’m not very good at it. When I look at the friends I have I wonder, “How do they do it? How do they always manage to be so good at friendship? They are a really good friend to me. I need to learn from them. Why are they still my friend?” Then I’ll avoid them for a few months before popping back up at some random thing I’m invited to and smother them in hugs and kisses because I know I’ll likely retract into a cave afterward and not see them for a few more weeks/months/years.
Throughout my life, friendships weren’t something I valued. I had them accidentally or by association. To be a friend meant to be depended upon and to depend on others. This was something I didn’t want to sign up for. People could let you down, don’t you know? I wasn’t about to look stupid when they did. Or people can be so demanding, ugh, I don’t want to be guilt-tripped for staying home, no way. Too much emotional labor. Ew, clingy.
I befriended people I thought I could get something from. Everyone I met, I eyed for potential benefits they could provide to me. When they no longer provided this value, or my goal was accomplished, I dropped off with no explanation. Or, in the worst of times, a made-up explanation.
When I got sober, I got soft. I started seeing people for the amphibians CS Lewis describes them as: “Half-spirit and half-animal.” There was always a self-centered idea that of course, I was magical, don’t you know how highly favored I am by God? (This was before I was even Christian and likely more accurately described as… okay, delusions of grandeur per bipolar disorder but whatever.)
Then the Divine Thought occurred to me one day in sobriety that maybe you are favored and loved by God, too… well, I started to feel a little differently about friendships. Humans in general. Have you ever tried to see someone that annoyed the shit out of you through “the eyes of God”? I promise, my heart will break a little bit especially if the person is an asshole because now I just see a person that is hurting and struggling to put their pain in perspective. Have you ever tried to see someone you love through the “eyes of God”? I become so overwhelmed with gratitude that I begin writing long rambling blog posts…likethisone….
When I got sober, I started going to meetings and sat in those meetings for a year without trying to talk to anyone. In my opinion, these were just temporary people that I would not need to know later on in life because my alcoholism was just a phase and I could get better on my own and I don’t need people because don’t you know that people can’t be depended on? (Which was really just a projection of I can’t be depended on this whoooole tiiime, whooaa…)
What ended up happening is that my awful decisions and ego and lack of humility broke me down to the point where I sat in meetings and I could feel God tugging at my heart saying, “You should go talk to them after the meeting. You should get to know this person. You really need to talk to that one.” Every time I followed that advice, a friendship blossomed that to this day has continued to bloom.
So then I think, “Why that person? They are so cool. Why do they talk to me?” Not out of a self-deprecating, “I’m so uncool way” but in a — “What are the chances and WHY!?”
I didn’t find my friends; the good Lord gave them to me. – Emerson
Earlier this year, Pastor Miles at the Rock Church said something that for years I had been trying to articulate which is, “When God puts someone in your life it is because He trusts you with them.” This started to shine some light onto why some people appeared in my life. Also, why I appeared in some people’s lives.
Then I started reading a lot of C.S. Lewis. Which I don’t recommend unless you want to chop up and examine everything you believe and have it tossed in the air just to watch it fall down neatly intact with a big floppy bow on it.
“Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth? – Or at least, “Do you care about the same truth?” The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer.”
I am so blessed to have such a fantastic motley crew of people in my life that have accepted me into theirs, that I have a really hard time reconciling it. How on earth do I acquaint curious millionaire high school drop-outs and alcoholic Harvard graduates searching for life’s meaning? How do I adore the faithful church worship leader gal and the musically gifted skeptical atheist fellow?
In each of the humans God has brought to me in friendship, I can clearly see now which truths we value. Our quest for the perfection of our art, our recovery, our story, our faith, our community, our love, our spirit — I see that we are all turning over the same questions in our minds and we share our findings with each other. The beauty is we don’t always agree on the answer but damn it, we know it’s the question that’s important. It’s so comforting to know someone else cares about the question, too. After all, something about finally having someone to talk about it helps settles our restless little half-spirit and half-animal souls.