Except for when I was younger, I’ve always had a lot of female friends. Never dated much, and never dated any of those friends. There were times over the course of my adult life that I wanted to, but I never did, and those girls (women) that I was interested in eventually ended up in the friends “bucket,” as Lorana calls it. Which, while disappointing from a dating point of view, is not bad at all from a friends one. And as some of you know, one of those situations not working out is what’s chiefly responsible for changing my life, and getting me here today.
I never really thought to ask myself why I seemed to associate mostly with women, but rather just accepted it as the way my life was going to be. Before your minds start whirring away, no, it isn’t because I’m a secret member of the Rainbow Coalition. Never swung that way, in spite of a lot of jokes, and my admitted fondness for musical theater. I think now what it mostly came down to was fear. Spending time with women was safe, or safer, anyway. I would get the benefits of hanging out with the opposite sex (such as interesting conversations–which was hard to get from guys–and I like to talk. And also the things I liked to do weren’t always the type of things men enjoyed.), without much of the drama that would inevitably occur when dating someone.
And really, the dating experiences I’d had were not good, to say the least. I had one sort of long term relationship that was born out of loneliness on both our parts, and of course ended when it became obvious we weren’t actually dating at all, but just enjoying each other’s “company.” She was divorced, and several years older than me. The end came one evening when her 5 year old son asked “are you going to marry my Mommy?”
No, I was not.
My other two situations were both sojourns into what I thought was love, but both ended with me getting hurt. The first was because I was afraid to say what I felt, and it cost me the only healthy relationship I ever had to that point. The second was completely my own fault. I persevered in that situation despite really good advice from a really good friend, and it not only cost me the relationship, but also my best guy friend at the time.
Which reinforced my tendency to not have a lot of guy friends. And the thing about that is that God has been working on that aspect of my life ever since. I’ve gotten beau coup healing in that particular area, and had a lot of the lies I’d gone a lifetime believing brought into the light of God’s truth.
Most of these had been so ingrained into my psyche, and my heart, that they seemed completely like truth. Because I’d been hurt by my brother growing up, I knew that I could not trust men, and I knew they would hurt me if I did (lie #1). Along these same lines, because I’d always been told no one wanted me (parents, family, friends….), and no one ever would, I believed this, too (lie #2). And it made sense to not try, because I’d be hurt eventually anyway….
After Ben died, this made the most sense of all. And there was a period of my life where I had no friends, male OR female, because I simply could not bear to be hurt anymore by anyone, regardless of who they were. So I withdrew as far as I possibly could, without climbing into the Bell Jar.
Of course, eventually I was able to climb mostly out of this particular abyss, and I began to have friends again, and eventually very good friends. And then came my second crash. When that second relationship I mentioned a little while ago ended, along with a decade-long friendship, I knew that my first instinct about guys was correct, and I shouldn’t be close to them. I’d been hurt again by a person that felt more like a brother to me than my own brother ever had.
Not that long after that, I tried again, and began to forge a friendship with a guy one of my female friends was dating. It seemed like a good idea at the time. He went to my church, seemed to be strong in the Lord, and the type of friend it would be good for me to have. Then his relationship ended with my friend, and with me as well. He never really understood my friendship with her, and our own friendship was not able to overcome it. And because of my own issues and brokenness, I told myself that he had only pursued a friendship with me because of my friend. He had not been interested in my friendship at all. This was a lie, of course, but it felt like truth….
I haven’t really even tried to date anyone since then. Only had a couple of opportunities, but I was grateful when they didn’t pan out because it meant I would not have to put anything out there, and if I didn’t do that, then I couldn’t be hurt again. It made sense to me.
I have not put myself out there at all. I haven’t.
What am I trying to say with this post? A couple things. One is that I think God has been working on my heart for a really long time now, preparing it for something. In the way of friendship, the ones I have with my closest female friends have changed and matured, I think. Perhaps we are not quite as close as in the past, but in a healthy way. The way those relationships should be, I think. I feel good about all three of them. I think the Lord brought these women into my life for a reason, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say they are all extraordinary friends, and add a great deal to my life. Their candor, lack of pretension, and sometimes very tough love has been what’s helped me continue to grow, I think. Both as a follower of Christ and as a man.
As far as guy friends go, I think God knew what he was doing all along, and I can see that now. I needed to heal a lot my personal wounding before I could pursue healthy and fulfilling friendships with men. One of the best things that happened to me over the past year, I think, was reconciling (after a fashion) with the guy friend that had been involved in love foray #2. We both said what we needed to say, and it was good. I doubt we can recover what we lost, but there was forgiveness and healing done, and that’s all I can ask. It’s probably better that we don’t go back to where we were, because when I look at it now, that was a dangerous friendship for me in a lot of ways.
But God opened another door for me when he brought Merrill into my life. He’s been a blessing. A man I can trust, an elder in my church, and someone I know will not bullshit me about myself. Our friendship probably leans more toward the mentor/”mentee” side, but that’s what I think I need in a lot of ways–never had it before.
The Lord has also brought me a little distance and perspective in a few other female friendships I’d had over the past couple years, and that’s been healthy as well. In short, I found out who my real friends were. Things are getting better, though. Just recently I met Lorana’s Chris, and he is a really awesome guy. I think if they lived in the SD, or I lived in ATL, we’d probably become pretty good friends. I hope we still will.
I have to say that I’ve also come to like Krysco’s b-law a great deal, and I look forward to getting to know him a little better as well. What’s my point with all that? Well, it’s that God is stitching up the rents in my heart. I’m doing my best to be the man he wants me to be, and to develop healthy relationships with my brothers in Christ. It’ll take a while, but I’m willing to put in the time.
To that end, I’m probably going to be doing a men’s group with another older gentleman (older than me) in the single’s ministry–it should be good.
The other thing is that I feel God has been preparing my heart all this time for the person he intends for me to meet. I don’t know who she is yet, but I’m gonna do the best I can to stop hiding from her. Can’t meet someone if your head is buried in the freaking sand. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do it yet, but I’m going to try and listen when God gives me direction. And we’ll see.
The last thing for now (since I’ve been meandering like a bastard) is that I can feel myself being strengthened in the spirit daily. I think the parts of my life that I used to feel were lacking were because I was not yet ready to experience what Jesus had for me in those areas. Not that I’m totally arrived there yet, but I believe I’m on the way.
I better go–I have about thirty subpoenas next to my keyboard giving me the stinkeye..
a brief postscript. Been working on restoring my friendship with the guy my friend used to be involved with, too. I forgot to mention that. He’s part of the Healing Prayer ministry that has gone a long way toward changing my life. It will take a while, but Jesus will be there, and I think we’ll end up where He wants us in the end….