Friendship has not always come easy to me.
Shy and introverted by nature, I have always been a person who can count my close friends on one hand.
Moreover, I have struggled in my adult years to be vulnerable with my friends. To put down the party manners and let people see the “real me” in all its messy glory.
At some point I realized that my walls and masks were doing me no favors.
Loneliness gets old.
So a few years ago I made a vow to commit to friendship. To work hard at being a good friend to a few people. To let myself truly see and be seen.
Finally after years of working, I had a breakthrough this week where all walls came down.
But first a back story and a warning.
I am a puker. I was born into a long line of weak stomachs and have been a part of their ranks since childhood. I can remember the first time I puked publicly into a potted plant in our local mall after having eaten too much greasy pizza for dinner. I was MORTIFIED.
Since then I have taken my hurling skills to new heights. I puked everyday for four months when pregnant with my son, occasionally publicly. I puked five times on the ride home from a Lilith Fair concert in front of a car full of women after getting overheated during the event. I have even puked internationally! After picking up some little bug on a mission trip to Ghana, I puked in a courtyard full of Ghanaians. I didn’t know the local dialect for “crazy white woman keeps throwing up,” but I’m pretty sure they were saying it.
All the times my Achilles heel (or stomach) has revealed itself publicly, I have been embarrassed and ashamed. Who could love a puker?
Until this week.
I had made plans for a day trip with a dear friend to check out a coffee shop ministry that shares much in common with the one we work with. I woke up up the morning of the trip with a throbbing sinus headache. I thought about calling my friend to cancel on her, but I had just recently bailed out on her due to a family conflict. Since I try to be a friend who shows up, I took some medicine and pressed on.
When I met up with my friend for our trip, it turned out she was similarly afflicted (Georgia in the spring is brutal y’all. Allergies and headaches abound). We both thought about bailing on the trip, but there was a third friend we were meeting at the shop. One we both wanted and needed to show up for that day. So both having taken our meds and she stopping for a soothing drink, “to settle my stomach” we headed up the interstate.
As the hour ticked by I could feel the motion and sunlight and throbbing head all fight inside of me. I kept trying to breath and think non queasy thoughts. Finally when we were a couple of miles from the shop, I could feel my efforts failing. I cried for my friend to pull over. As I struggled with the car door, the tummy geyser began to blow.
You would think after all these years of puking I’d get better at it. But no. It was on my jeans, my shirt, my hair, my friend’s car door. After I calmed enough to look up, I immediately apologized. My friend in her best mom voice said, “It’s okay” and handed me a wad of wet wipes.
And you know what? I didn’t even feel embarrassed. Her nurturing spirit and grace made it all seem okay. Like, what’s a little puke between friends? So, I just cleaned up best I could, got back in the car, and we went on our way telling our best puke stories. (It turns out everyone has a great puke story).
At the end of the day I apologized again to my friend for being so puny and puking on her car and all. I wondered out loud why she would wanted to hang out with me.
She responded by looking me straight in the eye and saying,
“You are so much more than your pukey stories.”
I still haven’t quite recovered from that statement yet.
To be known at my worst and still loved for my best is powerful.
And it reminds me why I’ve worked all these years to make friends.
Not only is it an amazing experience to be loved for your whole true, messy self.
But it is like the hand of God reaching down and covering you with grace.
Because some things are so wonderful they can’t be imagined, but only experienced through the interactions with others given to us to show us the face of God.
So, here’s to friendship.
And may you be blessed enough to have people who know you even at your worst and love you more than you deserve.
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