Oh, the wonders of the holidays. I don’t know about you, but my holidays were pretty glorious this year. Not because I received a bunch of gifts or ate a bunch of treats (or at least not only for those reasons… *glances at treadmill and clears throat uncomfortably*). My holiday season was fulfilling because we made it a point to spend it with our friends.
Since I was young the holidays–the week of Christmas in particular–was reserved for a lot of family-only activities. It was just me, my brother and my parents, and for a time just me and my brother. Eventually it evolved to include Andy, then to include Jack’s wife. Now, 2800 miles later, we just spent our third Christmas apart from any family.
I have to admit that during this time of year my instinct is to gravitate toward hermitlike behavior. All of my immediate family’s birthdays and anniversaries of their passings fall within this two-month time period, so I don’t always know how the season will be for me. My belief and proclamation over my own life is always that God will use the hardest time of the year to bring the biggest blessings, because that is in His good nature. He restores. He rebuilds. He comforts. Yet, with all of my proclaiming, some years I hurt, and that’s okay. It’s okay to miss my family.
This year however, we felt the Lord leading us to be intentional and pursue activities with friends during the holidays. We were invited to a few shindigs and we invited some friends to do fun things as well. It was a huge time of blessing for us and we entered the new year very thankful for the people around us. The holidays were memorable because actual new memories were made. New relationships were built. New roots were established. Not the sort of stuff that would have stemmed from spending a month in my pajamas, eating tree-shaped Reese’s.
Before you call me Pollyanna and quit reading, let me say that this season of new focus hasn’t been all butterflies and kittens. For me, there’s been a HUGE lesson on letting go of comfort and trusting again, and that’s rarely an easy thing. I’ve heard from many different people in different places that they want to be more intentional with their lives this year–that 2016 is a year of focus.
In regards to a friendship, I think that being intentional is what makes or breaks intimacy and the sense of belonging. I realized during the holidays that much of my pain in some friendships comes from a lack of reciprocation; sometimes I find that I’m putting a lot more into a relationship than is being bounced back. And right now I feel that God is highlighting these friendships that aren’t exactly reciprocal so that I can start to let them go. At least at the intensity I was concerned about them and their lack of growth.
Now, don’t go thinking I’m heartless and that I only give as much love as I think I can get back; we all know that’s not how love works. Yeah, sometimes it really is a matter of someone just not being “that into me” compared to how much I’m “into” them. But often it’s just a matter of life changes, which I totally get. People move away, they have babies, they change careers, and priorities naturally change with all that. But I find that sometimes I get trapped in what I call “loyalty hell,” where I have a huge expectation of myself to pour into pursuing, maintaining, and growing certain friendships even when the other party just isn’t into it. Doing this is an enormous drain on my emotional energy, and when I feel I’m not being loved in return, bitterness can set in. And just to clarify in case you’re imagining the crazy sorts of stuff I might expect from my friends, it’s not about favors or gifts or hours spent or anything so substantial as that. Sometimes something as small as a text from a friend, telling me how they wished we had time to hang out more, can mean the world. They take the time to show that they care, even if in just a small way. That’s reciprocation.
This season I feel that God is saying that it’s okay to let go. I’m to move beyond the old patterns of doing the lion’s share of the intentional pursuing and just letting the chips fall where they may. He’s letting me know that I’m not a failure if a friend pulls back from me when we once had a close relationship. Friendships are fluid, changing. They mature when watered, but sometimes it’s okay to let the ground go dry and move on. It’s never wrong to sow your seeds where you’re seeing the most growth.
Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.
Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.