I met and lost my only best friend in elementary school. In first grade, Amy and I had an instant bond and laughed at things that no one else did. We saw the world through the same lens. At recess, we would jump up on the tall wire fence together--arms outstretched and feet fitting through the holes closest to the ground--and make up the rule that we must go around the entire playground by scaling its walls. Anyone else would have thought we were crazy, but I didn't care. I was safe and secure in the total abandon and recklessness of a friendship where I was accepted and loved exactly for who I was.
Life whizzed by for the next few years pretty uneventfully. Amy and I remained best friends up until third grade when the unthinkable happened. We had a fight. And not just a little one, either. We had a huge drama-filled ordeal where she had her posse on her side of the playground who also hated me, and I had...well I had myself to defend. Of course I don't remember what we argued about. Instead, I replay the moments of humiliation that were to come after that fateful day. Things like Amy wagging her newly-pierced earlobe from across the room in math class to torment me, because I wasn't yet allowed to get mine pierced. Or Amy and a few of her posse advancing on me (by myself) on the playground only to spit with venom in my face the most horrible word: "PUS!" and then walking away laughing, and saying she remembered how I hated that word. Or perhaps the most painful--the day that I so proudly came to school wearing my new-to-me second-hand green Guess jeans (complete with the Guess triangle on the back pocket) and Amy and her friends again taunting me: "Are those Guess jeans? I bet your mom got them at the second-hand store". Ouch. I denied the claim, but it shot an arrow deep into my chest. How could someone who knew me so well use the knowledge to rip me apart?
I'd like to say that the story ended in elementary school, but it didn't. As we got older and continued in the same schools, Amy and I got civil again. Even became friends again. I sought her friendship so long and hard that when I got to high school, I realized that I would need to start over looking for friends, because her ghost of friendship was all I had been clinging too. My already shattered heart broke into a million pieces one day in study hall as I hoped against hope that the multi-page note, now being folded up into that special friendship fold and about to be furtively passed on would find its way over in my direction, but at the last minute did not--although it had my name on the first page--since my Rival #1 was also named Melissa. The other Melissa had won in the triangle, again. At the end of the note in BIG letters was my sentence: BFF. Best friends forever with the other Melissa. I would never, ever win her affection again.
I have carried Amy and Melissa in my heart with sadness for many years. I cringe whenever I hear anyone mention their "best" friend, as innoncent as the reference may be. I mourn for my loss and I have been on a quest to find another best friend to fill Amy's shoes ever since, but it's never quite happened. I've been invited to be a bridesmaid in several friends' weddings, but I was never the maid of honor. I have met wonderful people, make incredible connections, but have been almost relieved when I had to move away or the other person left. I can keep friends better by distance, it seems. Or I have shared my friendship "issue" too soon with a new person and I have scared them away. In one of these cases I recently find a friend who I lost contact with for some mysterious reason and try to reconnect through facebook. When I ask (who even asks??) to "friend" her, she doesn't respond. So I wait. Finally after a month and a half, I can't stand it anymore. She and I had connected so well--so I call her out. Well, not really. I put the blame on myself. I tell her I'm sorry for making her uncomfortable with my request, and that I really was just happy to catch up a little with her, and I wish her well. (Which is not really true. My real motivation is to find her and show her how wonderful and I am and wait for her to pursue me, and want me to be her friend. Which of course doesn't happen). I'm let down again and the pain smarts from her final words "Um, okay thanks" as if it had been Amy pushing the P-bomb at me again at recess.
So here I am at square one once more. If I'm honest, I realize that my best relationships are with people from whom I don't expect to fill that BFF hole in my heart. I do well when I reflect on advice I have heard from a friend before: "Be careful not to put all of your eggs in one basket." I know I am a much better friend when I'm not needy and full of expectations. I know, I know, I know. I receive much joy by just being myself and enjoying the moment of shared experience or good conversation. I realize that back in elementary school I began to believe the lie that no one would want to be my friend simply for who I was, and that I've carried it along by defending myself and withdrawing at the first sign of conflict or discomfort in a relationship. In this "thin place" I have a choice to make. I either follow the same pattern and believe that every friend in my life is Amy (after third grade) in disguise waiting to tell the whole world that I still shop at thrift shop (even though I'm proud of it now). Or I can reach out in faith and carve out a whole new path, hand-in-hand with my friend who will never let me down, the friend that made me who I am and was with me in those awful friendless moments hurting right alongside with me. In this friendship I can again be safe and secure in being who I am. Little by little, I am opening myself up to that truth. Thank you, Jesus.
I hope he has BFF scrawled on his palm for me.
Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses....let us have confidence, then and approach God's throne where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 5:15-16
*The reference to a "thin place" comes from Mary Demuth's recent memoir Thin Places which inspired me to write this entry. By all means, go go go get the book!