Can Guys and Girls Really Be Friends?

2834CB80-832A-476D-ABD9-485E574B9CF4And there he was. Strolling into my room with some of his own heaviness, sharing the understanding that we were perfect company for each other in that moment. He came in and sat on the edge of my bed. We bounced back and forth about what was weighing us down, did our best to lift the chin of the each other and remind them, they could totally make it through this. And eventually settled into a calm quietness of the comfort of a friend.

Everyone had left at this point, and we sensed he should to. But then something shifted. The air was different than it normally was with us, we both got a little nervous. I had been half working on school work this whole time and looked up from my computer. Finding his eyes made it clear what he was thinking…what we were both thinking.

We had come to this moment we all come to at some point. It only lasts a second, but that’s all it takes for you to step into water that was never meant for you. To end up much deeper than your intentions ever were.

And by the grace of Jesus, we snapped out of it. I forcefully said I had work to do, he clumsily stumbled out of my apartment. And while we endured the most awkward goodbye of our friendship to date, we both confirmed afterward, that we’re really glad we decided to be ‘just’ friends that night. Because now we get to keep being friends and there’s nothing in the way.

Ever been here? Ever been here and made a choice that ruined a lot. Ever been here, and made a choice that made too many rooms awkward, cost you someone you care about, or just added another thing to the complications of life?

If so this post is for you. This post is me trying to answer questions most people probably don’t want to ask out loud, but have been screwing up for a while.

So let’s get into it.

I think a lot of the problem lies in this reality:

We value relationships way more than friendship, and we have an unmet need for intimacy. And I think these two things may be deeply related.

If we back up to square one, we are hungry for intimacy.

We know we need it and want it. But no one taught us (or even acknowledged that hunger in us) (especially if you grew up in the church) how to understand our own need for intimacy, and how to healthy have it with anyone honestly.

Often the by-product of this is latching onto the first person you can have a ‘real’ conversation with. It’s falling in love with someone who ‘gets me’. Sound familiar?

The danger of this is that we’ve mentally associated intimacy completely with romantic love, and when we do this a few things are inevitable. 1) When you stop feeling understood by said person you become confused. 2) You have a deep quality talk with someone else (not your s/o) and immediately feel guilty, afraid you chose the wrong person etc. etc. 3) At best you float through the world looking to be understood by someone, placing tall orders on individuals, and likely experiencing a lot of pain.

These are just guesses. But I think we’ve all be on the search for that ‘spark’ one time or another. But this is what I’ve learned.

We’ve carved an idol from what was supposed to be a normal, healthy, commodity of community. So when we do in fact experience this gift of intimacy (no not physically, but emotional, mental, etc.) that was intended for us to have, we act reckless. We try to claim it as our own so no one can take it, and likely end up strangling it like a baby bird we squeezed too tight. 

The second unfortunate fallout of our misunderstanding of intimacy is that we (or maybe it’s just me) cannot separate intimacies.

I remember one night with a friend (who I was not romantically involved with). We were with a large group of our friends staying at a house, and everyone else had gone to bed. I found him out on the porch looking up at the stars. I love the stars so I walked out, asked if I could join, and we laid there on the porch talking about constellations and how we couldn’t see them like this from the city. Then-get ready, we got up and went to our rooms to sleep.

Crazy I know. But that my friends, is friendship. It is sweet, and special, and truly a gift. But I know the more common ending to that story for me and many I know is at worst: we then proceeded to hookup right there on the porch, or at best, we went to bed wishing we had. Hear me when I say, feeling a ‘spark’ is not always your cue to marry the guy! It’s actually just a gift that Jesus gave us to connect with MANY people, male and female, in different moments, with proper boundaries.

Wow, what a gift to know that ‘feeling’ we all treat like some buried treasure is ready to be harvested in the treasure of the people around us.

Anyway-that potential hookup does not have to be the story!! We can understand that a moment of healthy intimacy with a friend, DOES NOT have to lead to a moment of physical intimacy. The pie of intimacy was not made for us to consume in its entirety every moment, and with only one person.

The third tragedy our misunderstanding has created, is a deep fear in one another. Our lack of understanding in our own friendships, simply signifies that likely our significant other also does not understand the intimacy pie. And when they get more of it from someone or something else, they are likely to harm what you two have labeled as a committed relationship. And even if they don’t, that fear breeds a lot of jealously that simply would not exist if we were confident and trusting in the ‘friendships’ of the people around us.

The good news is, we can be! In fact, we are CALLED TO BE. Actually, more than friends, but BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST. WHOA. This is who we are before and after anything goes down. In Matthew Jesus calls us his brother, sister, and mother. In Romans we’re a part of one body. In 1 John, we are called brothers. In 1 Timothy we’re told to treat those who are older as fathers and mothers, and our peers as BROTHERS AND SISTERS. IN 1 Corinthians, we are told to not sin against our brothers. Proverbs tells us our brother and sister are born out of adversity….

Are we getting this? These are pictures of intimacy. Working together, loving one another, experiencing pain together, forgiving one another-these are intimate events and the bible outlines each one happening with a friend-in fact a close intimate friend. One who is like a brother and sister.

A full life is full of SAFE intimate moments with the people around us. Have we been missing out on the fullness of this?

But Emily, how can I get close to a guy when I know one of us will fall for eachother-and then that just gets awkward.

I get it. But I honestly believe this is an issue of maturity.

I have done all of the below:

Left a friendship because we couldn’t stay on that level.

Agreed with the other person to PROTECT our friendship from romantic elements.

Moved forward in a serious relationship with a once friend.

There’s not a wrong answer, and every situation is different…but if we trained ourselves to build friendships BEFORE dating, we might be able to 1) avoid unwise relationships in the first place and 2) care about someone enough to work through the feelings with them, in vulnerability, and decide together to protect your friendship from complications.

Knowing that every piece of the pie is on the table, but having friend relationships that are so valuable, that you guard them against the pieces that just don’t fit. These kind of friendships are SO possible, but both parties have to be willing, and mature enough to enjoy the gift and not control it. 

I think part of this is waiting for the right people. And not looking over the great one’s you already have. The greatest compliment a guy can give me is being someone who genuinely wants to know me, spend time with me, and care for me as a friend without expecting a physical benefit from it. I love my brothers. They out their ladies.

*This topic is REALLY big, and this is only a scratch on the surface. If you think I didn’t touch a specific thing enough, or have questions on a more specific situation comment or email me at e.beth2014@gmail.com for later posts!

 

 

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4 Ways To Keep From Losing Yourself

The full length title of this post is “4 Ways to Keep From Losing Yourself in this Topsy Turvy World” in tribute to a fav Wonder Woman comic quote-HA. But don’t worry it’s only partly about boys.

Last week I was trolling through the overpriced Target housewares section talking to a friend. I felt like a certified woman you know, talking a little too loud about our personal identity crises while picking out the best photo album for the house I don’t even own right now. But there was serious business to handle.

“I feel like somewhere I lost myself. I want to get back…except no one loses themselves on purpose, so it makes it hard to figure out how to return,” my friend said.

And in the moment I didn’t have too much to say back. She’s right you know. None of us plan on getting here, on feeling this way. And though I probably couldn’t describe the feeling itself well, I think a lot of us know exactly what she’s talking about. Whether you’re knee deep into a few year relationship and you stopped doing some of the things you love, your new dream job has become the only thing you think about, or simply the need to fit into what’s expected shooed away some really special parts about you, you get this.

So no, none of us plan on getting here, but we can plan for when we do-or better yet how to guard against it.

Suggested below…

1. Unfollow Liberally 

Being trigger happy will with the un/follow button on social media is probably one of the most underrated tools we have to protect our minds, time, and joy. Most of us get on social media innocently, wanting to scroll for a moment, check out what yo girl is doing down in Houston etc. etc., and then it happens, we see something that immediately washes a wave of dread, questions, or insecurity over us.

But why do we let this happen?

Whether it’s someone throwing shade, or an ex’s story showing he’s moving on way too fast for your liking, or any other 15 second caption that trips you up when you weren’t even expecting it, these things can get to us.

So, Get rid of that ish. You don’t need it. It’s your name on that account, own it. Make social media your haven and inspiration, not your comparison, drama, or heartache chamber.

2. Keep an ‘I like’ list

This one sounds a little silly, but I started doing this when I got into a serious relationship at the beginning of college. Inevitably, being around anyone who is different than you, you get to discover new places, music, opinions and more, and may even grow to like them. But you don’t have to let your old loves die, even if none of the people around you are into it.

This one is really just about living aware. Noting that you really liked that song in the grocery store, that you actually hate going with him to Sunday soccer games, or that you haven’t painted or created anything in a while.

3. WRITE down your Destiny Cues

You guys I absolutely LOVE this one.

Above my bed is a copy piece of paper that reads Destiny Cues. And like an actor or actress on the backstage of life, I truly believe God gives us small whispers of what is to come. These whispers don’t always need to be shared, but writing them down is a beautiful way to see His kindness when they happen! And to give you hope and direction when it seems like life has no direction.

Want proof? About 9 months ago I wrote on there that I might be going somewhere with an international organization to work with women’s rights.  This was before any applications, offers, etc. And now I’m going to Uganda. There are Destiny Cues laid out all through life, don’t miss them.

4. Have other voices.

Sometimes the best way to keep yourself to hear out people/things that are very different than you. Our generation lives in an echo chamber, we are boldly outspoken about everyone having their own opinion, but vehemently against listening to anyone’s but our own. Open up the airwaves. Don’t let your twitter feed be your best friend. Be willing to be wrong.

The most grounding other voice for me is that of the Lord. The world can feel like a tornado of expectation sometimes, and I always need the voice of the actual bible to help me recenter on what is true.

That’s it! Keep yourself, grow yourself-you’re no groupie my dear, and the world is better when you walk in that.

xx

Have you been here? Pt. 1

I’m sorry.

Not because I loved you, but because I’ve never seen the side of me that hurt you before.

I guess I always knew it lived in there somewhere, but my self-righteous past made me believe it would never grow into something anyone else could see or feel.

I didn’t just hurt you you know, but you and someone(s) I really care about….and myself.

And now I’m walking into a place where my greatest desire is to love, and I’m looking around the room seeing people I need to dodge.

What was once a family reuinion now looks like tip toeing around a minefield of hearts-some of which I planted myself.

It makes you ask the question, “What happened?”

And I guess if you stay somewhere long enough the lines of hurt start to tangle around places you frequent like subway lines, but I like to hope those one day become veins of forgiveness.

It’s a hard thing for a man to become collateral to another man’s sin.

But I’ve watched this play out more clearly now than ever, and it really is a testament to the urgent words in Ephesians 6 that we only seem to bring up when trying to pat down a problem we don’t fully understand-

The words that say, we aren’t at war with each other, but with the roaming, hungry spirits.

You can’t damage control sin, and this is why that living scripture is both a warning sign and an ointment for black eyes after the fall out.

What better way for the darkest side to gain strength, not by killing us, but by turning us against one another. By smearing our names in the sand with the tongues of what we thought were safe people.

What better way for evil to distract us through lingering stares and bitter regrets.

“I’m sorry.” feels like a child’s weapon against the darkness, but use what you have.

****

Challenge Time

I’ve been reading a book called “Renovation of the Heart” and in it the author writes:

It is common today to hear Christians talk of their ‘brokenness,” But when you listen closely, you may discover that they are talking about their wounds, the things they have suffered, not about the evil that is in them.

I know I know, you’re thinking Emily, why must you always bring the hammer on my perfectly nice day? Well because I truly believe, a new freedom comes when we look in the mirror not with shame but with brave honesty. When we can stand before the darkness inside of us, it loses a little more power to hurt others, and that my friends is a victory.

What do you need to face today? (Either with yourself or with someone else)

Read Pt. 2 here.

Heart Maps

Recently I was driving to meet a friend with another friend in the car. Everything was going as normal until my friend in the passenger seat asked, “Wait, why are you going this way?” To which, I responded, “What do you mean?” My friend in the passenger seat redirected me to what was apparently a more normal route to the coffee shop we were going to, a route in which I honestly had never used. And just like that I realized, I had never learned the ‘normal route’ using main roads.

I had learned to get to that coffee shop based on a landmark, a landmark from my past. I hadn’t realized it, but I had been navigating my way to several places orienting myself around this one place. I knew how to get to the grocery store, from that point. To the coffee shops, from that point. To my friend’s house, from that point. I had never considered that when the relevance of that place ended, it was no longer the best route.

And then I just sat. How long have I been orienting my present around past landmarks? How long have I been taking the same way home, driving past pain points because it’s the only way I learned.

This might sound ridiculous to you, because unlike me you have a great sense of direction and can quickly find new ways to get from point A to point B…but even if you aren’t doing this in real life, we all do a little bit of it in our hearts. Even when we know we need to leave a life landmark in the past, we always seem to find a way to drive back by. Check in, see if anything has changed…see if it still feels like it did a few years ago.

But I recently got smacked with a Bible Study one of my friends wrote. In session three she came around John and taking up your cross daily. I had never realized that implied moving forward. I had never realized Jesus is rallying beside us, cheering us on to keep taking steps, to not slow down. It’s like He’s saying, “You may have some things to carry, but I’ll help, we can’t just stop here honey.” I also certainly never realized the cross I was denying to pick up, the cross that was keeping me from moving forward was my simple refusal to do so.

Jesus wants to rewrite my heart maps, he doesn’t want me driving down those old roads anymore.

So this is the ode to learn a new way. It’s okay that those places once meant something to you, and it’s okay that that isn’t how it is anymore. They can hold those memories just fine without you checking in.

 

Better Breakups: A quick guide based entirely on things I’ve messed up (but hey, you don’t have to)

While I know this post has an unncesarily long and slightly awkward title, I left it. Because that’s kind of how breakups make me feel. Trying to get something out I’m not quite sure how to articulate, a little wounded and insecure from the fallout, a little rambly, but very very sure I’m not the only one who’s been here. Very sure there is a moment where things seems smaller than they once did. If you’re not there yet, here’s a few tips for the ride.

1. Feel the feels

I think this should probably be 1-5, because c’mon. It sucks.
Let me say it again: it sucks.
And honestly, in a couple months when you are supposed to have picked up the pieces and moved on, it will still suck.
I’m here to tell you, that’s okay. I realized recently I never learned how to properly process pain, I was always wishing it away or ignoring it (see last post on pain). But pain doesn’t play like that, and like the monsters in the closet, he’s best tackled when looked straight in the face.

I can’t stress enough the importance of crafting time into your schedule to feel the feels in a place and time where it’s safe. Work crying is not the move (God bless my past and future bosses), so sit, weep, and pray. Being vulnerable with yourself is a discipline, and one that keeps the gremlins from growing into something very scary.

2. Don’t burn bridges at midnight

In a heartbroken moment it’s easy to make decisions that can’t be undone. It’s easy and likely justified to say, do, express the worst things-to take a match to what you’ve spent months, maybe years investing your heart coins into. If you’ve been hurt, you know that deep desire for the world to see the flames. This time you’re the arsonist, and you won’t go down that easy. But hear me when I say, it’s not their fire to watch burn, and while it may feel better in the late night moments to lash out, don’t. Breathe instead. Rest.

3. The only one who really scores on a rebound is Lebron

Whatever your motivation, I get it. You want to numb, forget, feel better, ignore, prove to yourself that you’re okay-our brains tells us a lot of things that simply aren’t true, and our brains on sad juice are even more of a liar. You may think you can control the aftermath, and in the wake of an unexpected breakup you are probably thirsty for control, but let me tell you something I read from Jenna B (now Carver) a few years ago. People aren’t things, and you can’t keep them. You don’t get to control them, so don’t hurt/use someone else because you feel hurt. It only ices your cake of late night regrets.

4. Master the art of the Breakup Glo-Up *sparkle emoji*

If you’ve ever seen that Twitter meme of Demi Lovato from Disney Channel beside now Demi that reads, “Your girl when y’all were together v. when you broke up” just know it makes me audibly laugh and well, enough said.

5. Give yourself some grace

This is BY FAR number ONE on the list, and I only put it here because this has to be the afterthought. This has to be the final voice in you head when you lay down on your pillow. When the thoughts, the blame, they ugly lies are flowing through the outgoing bins of your brain only to be stamped and mailed straight into your heart- give yourself some grace. It’s okay. You did great. No time has been wasted, it’s all a part of the beauty that’s you, even this.
I truly believe (and partly hate) that the best opportunity we have to look like Jesus is when we’ve been hurt. And the best time to walk out grace is when we’ve clearly hurt someone else. You can do this, and you can do it well.

I used to think I had a high pain tolerance

No one teaches you how to be sad.

Now this isn’t to suggest there is a right or wrong or certain way to be sad. But there is a way. There must be a way. And no one teaches you how to be sad.

What we are taught is to Band-Aid, and to rip.

It’s really no one’s fault, I’ve taught this to my sister already and she’s only 8.

Pretty early on, I realized something about her, something that is likely true of all children.

When she would fall or trip or bump her arm on an outstanding corner (which she often did, 1: because she’s a child, and 2: because she’s related to me) there would be a moment of silence. This moment of silence seems to me to be a sort of initiation to the understanding of pain. It’s almost like they haven’t been on the planet long enough to instinctively let out an explicit when they stub their toe and the unfamiliarity of pain comes rushing into their brains like a surprising visitor.

But then the lag catches up with reality, and they realize: that hurt.

That hurt. Ow. That hurt, and I want to cry, I want to scream, I want to sit on the floor and pull up my knees to my chest because that hurt. 

Except. I didn’t let her do that. Maybe it was just me and my parents, but as soon as one of these moments of possible pain would occur, we quickly manipulated those moments of silence into a moment of salvation.

As soon as G would hit the ground I would sweep her up, speak ‘it’s okay’ over whatever her small little brain was trying to compute, and hastily cover the scratch with one hand while distracting her with the other. Because if she saw it, if she saw the wound-well it was over. Even if it didn’t hurt all that bad, as soon as that little girl saw the little drops of blood trickling out, it was over.

I thought I was doing the right thing, the sweet thing, the ‘teach her how to be tough’ thing. And honestly often the, “I don’t want to deal with her crying right now” thing.

But I should have let her cry.

They should have let me cry.

Somewhere along the way, I should have learned to look the wounds straight in the face and weep at the reality. Skin was broken. This hurts. And the only thing to do right now is cry.

Our Band-Aids now don’t look like they did then; yet they still seem to nicely and quietly blend in with normalcy (*why black people don’t have band-aids will be discussed in a later more socially aware post).

Now those Band-Aids look like accomplishment: putting your nose to the grind, being the best you. Now they look like the glo-up, the, ‘let me come out shining’ attempts that really just leave you covering your new insecurities with money you didn’t need to spend. If I’m being honest, the Band-Aids can even look like forgiveness. Hiding under a quick ‘I’m supposed to forgive you so there, it’s fine! I’m fine!’

But Band-Aids only work on small wounds, and processing pain may actually be a process.

          *          *          *

I heard Dharius Daniels speak a few months ago and it shook me to my core.

He started saying things like “The test of faith isn’t in the enormity of the obstacle but in the length of the wait.” and “Some miracles are not immediate.” He started talking about long suffering like that may be the only way it comes.

But he really got me when he started to list off some of the most foolish, immature moves of those in scripture, and pointed back to where each of our bible heroes failed to deal with their pain.

I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to grow a garden of one kind of spiritual fruit.

There’s more to a high pain tolerance than being able to hold your tongue when the life corners catch you wrong.
There’s more to maturity than substituting pain for quick salvations that leave you looking like you ‘really have it together.’
That’s what I see from the other side of a Band-Aid plastered heart.

I don’t have the guidebook written yet, but until then I’m just going to whisper persistently to myself:

Time doesn’t heal darling, healing heals and it often takes time. 

 

*Featured image of this post taken by the ever talented Christian Garcia, check out his incredible work here.*

This Wasn’t The Plan

Growing up my, over and over my dad would say, ‘Have a plan Emily. It doesn’t have to be a good plan, but have a plan.’

And so I did. In every situation, in every phase of life, I did.

Except…this wasn’t the plan.

It wasn’t the plan to be at 21 with a degree walking on next steps so shattered I should have noticed they were glass sooner.
It wasn’t the plan to be estranged from some of the people who literally built a home for me with their hearts not too many years earlier.
It wasn’t the plan to so soon have to reconcile my past pieces with my a confused now, and try decide how (or if) they fit together for a salvageable future.

This isn’t the plan so much that I honestly feel kind of dumb.

But after my dad told me to make a plan (even a bad one) he always quickly followed it with, “You can change it later if you need to…just have a plan.”

And I may have never had to execute that second part until now. But this is where we are. Maybe my plan was bad…maybe it wasn’t, maybe things just change and end and move and that’s okay.

So here’s the plan, the new plan, the new subject-to-change-just-as-much-as-the-last-plan:

I graduated. And I refuse to digress.
I will carry my story beside my diploma, and say ‘This here, this is proof that I’ve learned.’
I will dig my heels into the dirt of my sadness and I will hold onto my faith, my heart, and my dignity like a life or death game of tug-of-war.
I will not blame, and I will not spit on the beautiful that was, because of the painful that is.
I will take each moment as a lesson of 2 Corinthians 4:18, and I will gaze into the eternal as a homing beacon for my soul.

Yet I will not rush out of this here. Because if life is going to grind on me, I refuse to lessen my potential shine.

Like the 12-year-old me with a rock tumbler in my basement, I always hated to wait the hours it took to make those yard rocks into shimmering stones.
But I am not that little girl, and I will wait and listen to the rumbling of the tumbler, because out of it I will come more beautiful than I even know.

This is the plan. At least the first one of 2018.