Have you ever felt incredibly alone but there were people all around you?
As I was walking through the grocery store it hit. I felt alone, fear, panic and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Desperately I wanted to take care of myself but I couldn’t. My husband immediately rushed to my side and got me help, but in the days to come, it never occurred to me, I ought to call a friend to be with me.
Then, the words no one is prepared for, “You have cancer,” and again people were around me but all I felt was alone. I didn’t know how to ask for what I really needed.
Let me take you back, my first 60 years of life I did not have any close friends. I thought, was this just my personality or was this how God designed me? I didn’t know. To have friends, I figured out I had to be around people, so I volunteered to work on committees or do projects with others. I served on the Arizona Women’s Retreat Team for 17 years. This was a place that I felt part of a team but after each retreat was planned, the friendships disappeared until the following year. I felt alone and unimportant to those I called “friends”. Why do I have to be doing something to develop a friendship?
Well, God made it clear to me while I was going through cancer treatments, that it was time to learn how to BE a friend and stop doing activities to have a friend.
Patterns. We see them all over, but it was time for me to take inventory of mine. Unfortunately I didn’t look too deep; rather I just acknowledged that I was happy enough and with plenty going on, this worked for me. I am an introverted person, so this was easy, safe and I was ready to move on without really making any changes. I needed to learn how to make emotional connections.
There was one person I considered a close friend. During my illness I needed her, but she did not know how to be a friend to me. Again, I felt alone and even betrayed this time. What kind of friendship was this? I had never communicated what I needed from her as my friend, so she was doing her best. I was expecting something she was completely unaware of. Eventually, with the help of a counselor, we had a nice time of reconciliation and self-realization. I discovered that I needed dependable people in my life, a friend that I could count on and all I have to do is communicate that!
On my mission to learn how to BE a friend, it was time to define what friendship meant. It started with a saying from one of our pastors “I went outside to find a friend but could not find one there, I went outside to be a friend and friends were everywhere.”
WOW, I have to learn to be a proactive friend! I have started to regularly meet with people and have been taking time to get to know them. I also learned it’s ok to have different kinds of friends — deep friendships and surface friendships. Both serve a wonderful purpose in our lives. A healthy friendship means sharing in the joys and the brokenness in one another’s lives. There must be mutual love, communication and reaching out to one another. For some this may come easy, but for me, I have to be intentional, take regular inventory of how I am doing, choose to engage with people, and give myself a lot of grace since I can still get stuck in my old patterns.
I love to read and learn about finding friends and being a friend. The book Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend was life changing for me, I hope it may bless you too. I am honored to share a little of my story with you today, if you need a friend to talk with, I would be honored to talk with you anytime.