Friday, October 23, 2015

Don't Let It Go: Thoughts on Past and Present Friendships

~Friday for Friends~

        In Russia children play a game where half of the crowd stands in a line and holds hands. A kid from the opposing team charges between one person and another. They, in turn, have to hold on to each other and not let go. I have learned the importance of sticking with family and friends no matter what after I gave up on a friendship back in seventh grade. 

This friendship bloomed in first and second grade. We hung out at school, visited each other, and wore matching clothes. I could tell you in a heartbeat that she meant a lot to me.

A quarter into second grade I moved. Dad’s “home assignment” as a missionary drew to a close, and we flew back to Russia. Certain that this friendship could handle anything, I typed up emails for Dad to send. Even when after a few years she stopped writing back, I envisioned my next trip to the States. I hoped that proximity would lift the barriers between us and make our friendship solid again.

The June before seventh grade our family flew to the States, and the long-awaited meeting came. However, time had passed. She had changed; I had changed. We both sat in the swimming pool only a few feet from each other, but a world apart from one another’s hearts. Both pretty shy we hadn’t yet acquired the skill of small talk so indispensible in such situations. Mom encouraged me, saying it would get better as time went, but I didn’t take the time.  

I gave up. I chose comfort over reconnecting and avoidance over perseverance ultimately letting go of that friendship. We didn’t see each other more than half a dozen times over the seventh-month stay.

Mistakes productively manufacture guilt, hurt, and fear.  However, I know that God can break this chain. He presents us with forgiveness (1 John 1:9), heals our wounds (Psalm 147:3), and calms our fears (Zephaniah 3:17, NLT). He also gives second chances (for example, John 8:1-11).

The same year I made the mistake of giving up God brought a new friend into my life. Then, once again, I moved. For a long time fear crept into that relationship. The fear of a repeat kept me awake in bed, crying, wondering if this friendship would end in the same way. 

Despite my past mistakes, God has helped me and has pulled me through. This year, four and a half years later, I have come back to the States. This month I had the opportunity to see my new friend again. We met and we scraped up enough words for an almost-normal conversation. We went to the same party and laughed at the same jokes. I emailed her my fears and she answered with a certainty that quieted me. The fear my mistake created is being eased down. 

From this experienced I learned more than just not giving up on relationships. I have also learned the importance of constant communication, the value of keeping in contact over long distances, long years, and hard times. Now in the States, I purposefully try to keep in touch with my friends half way around the world. I see it as vital enough to be worth the effort.    

Letting go of one person doesn’t mean I’m destined to fail at friendships. Although my shyness and the decision to not overcome it lost me a friend, through His grace God gave me a new one. Now I strive to keep in contact with others and to not give up on relationships.