I’ve been writing with (in)courage for years, and the truth is that I’ve almost quit this band of sisters several times. After the peak of my son’s illness and my own battles with depression or anxiety, I had a shifting faith and questions that multiplied in my heart. Witnessing or experiencing pain can do that to even the most sturdy of believers.
I must have had some false walls that needed to be torn down, and what a mercy it was for them to fall. It was painful, but what a mercy. Sometimes when things get shifty and shaky, we need to trust that a rebuilding is coming, and I had watched several friends go through this. I knew all I needed was the Cornerstone. This is why folks get clingy to the red letters of Christ once in a while. I had already learned to take comfort in Jesus, and I trusted Him to rebuild my faith, but in all the upheaval, I easily assumed the church wouldn’t have me if I shifted so.
What if I change? Will you leave me? I’m not big on needing to be liked by everyone. I’m not that sort of people pleaser. But fear of abandonment? I can hardly type the words. Please don’t leave me. Often I choose to leave you before you have the chance to leave me.
I’m so glad I didn’t leave.
This is Emily. I’m sure you know her. I met Emily when we were wee baby bloggers. We held each other by the shoulders in 2009 and cried that the other would do kingdom work with her words. There was never any doubt in my mind that Emily was called to be a light bearer and to do MIGHTY healing work within the regular and the small of the church.
It seems random that I tell you this. Some readers noticed in my book how women are terribly lacking until later in my story. For some reason I have believed men would stay before I believed a woman ever would. Probably I believed this based on my ability to woo a man. I shouldn’t tell you this. I don’t even know how to explain why I trusted what I knew of men more than I trusted my ability to have a true girlfriend, especially in the church.
I’ve had to grow in my love for women, and I certainly have. This is Liz. When she speaks, she glows. She’s hilarious, and when she says she is only there to encourage us, I believe her. I’m learning to believe in the continued work of the Holy Spirit in others and in myself. This is crucial for the life of the church — to not give up on the Spirit within us. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up faith and hope when you or someone you love gets kookoo pants. Next year any one of us could be barking up the same tree. Don’t give up on having healthy friendships, and don’t give up on the church.
Don’t assume to know what others will think of you. If you find yourself drowning in questions, if life circumstances have thrown you off kilter and you begin to question which way is up and is there a hell or what is atonement, don’t give up. A shifting faith can be a scary time. You need your people.
And what you look back and see is how grateful you are for the questions and the change, how thankful you are that you didn’t stay the same, how faithful God is even when you wonder if He’s the woman in The Shack.
My own story is that I have been led so gently back around to Jesus as King, Revealer and Coverer of sin and Healer of disease, Jesus the Only Way, and, yes, even Jesus who says take up your cross and follow me. Atonement is not a scary word to me. I belt Nothing but the Blood with the holyroller-est heart.
But what if I didn’t? What of our friends who have taken a different turn in their thinking? Will we love them then? Will we give up on our friendships? Is there room for an unknowing and a rebuilding? Many walls crumble over lifetimes. This I know. The Cornerstone does not. Can we trust that? He has sent His Spirit to do more than we could ever ask or imagine.
Sisters, let’s lay down our fear of being left behind or of others being left behind, and let’s keep the lamps burning. Walls will fall. He’s coming.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Let me first say that you rock a fedora! I wish I could wear one, but I have a “bucket head” as they say lol. All kidding aside. I don’t know where I’d be if I’d given up on people, friends, the church loving me through the ugly. Life does get scary and hard. Seasons can be good or they can be awful. Sometimes they feel like they’ll never end. My self preservation valve is to retreat…to withdraw. Oh so thankful that I had friends, who like Jesus, came looking for me when I was lost. He IS the cornerstone and He will never abandon us. Help us to trust that part of Jesus that He places in all of us. Your beautiful, radiant smile speaks volumes. Thank you for your words this morning…
Tori Denton Realtor® says
Just love this! I never tire of hearing how our God is with us…. especially when we’re wild and weary… looking forward to reading more in your book 🙂
Lynn D. Morrissey says
Thank you for heartfelt, transparent sharing, Amber. I may not be your sister across the church aisle, but might I be your sister across the miles? I always so appreciate what you write (and the *way* in which you write it), and I always resonate. I love this verse in Ps. 68: “God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing . . . . ” I’m not saying that you were lonely, but we surely can be lonely without our family, without our kin. And ironically, the truest dearest family should be the Body of Christ. It’s this family and those sisters of yours whom you’ve depicted here who will spend eternity together. I’m convinced that the same Lord who has not abandoned you has led you to them. Funny–about women. I have not so much felt the alienation of women friends in the church, but when I was in the workforce before having our daughter, I can tell you that I hated working for women. They could be petty, jealous, conniving gossips, always undermining you to make their own mark and stake off their own territory. I hate to say that, but it was true. Women gave women a bad name, and I preferred to work for men. I also tried to be a *different* kind of woman boss. And while I have many women friends in the Church (whether my own church or other Christian women), the one difficulty I’ve found (and it’s painful) is generally in not being used in the areas of my gifts. I say this not arrogantly. Other authors, speakers, and singers I’ve known have candidly shared this same pain…we have to go outside the Church proper because we are not used within its doors to edify the Body of Christ. And that is mystifying and hurtful. I think this happens more at the hands of leadership of women’s programs than the women at-large, themselves. And I love my women’s circle at church. We can express *anything* and still be loved, cared for, and accepted. Actually, we are kind of the renegade circle. =] And my Christian women friends in home ministry and now on the Net have been a godsend. We need each other, Amber, and I’m so glad that you have found your triumphant tribe. You ladies are beautiful, vulnerable, creative, and loyal to the King and to each other. Please know how much you need each other, and how much we reading need YOU. I”m grateful that those walls came tumbling down for you, so that with your sisters you can tear down other walls like hatred, prejudice, poverty . . . and the many social issues you all write about, and keep building bridges of love, hope, trust, and faith. Sooo grateful for you, dear one.
Oh yes, Lynn, you are my sister across the miles, and I am so grateful for you. Thank you always for encouraging me.
Lynn D. Morrissey says
I assure you, Amber, that it is easy to do. Sooo grateful for you. I continue to pray for God’s blessing upon your life and ministry!!
Jana DeVries says
Beautiful, healing words for those of us who tend to suffer alone because we don’t trust anyone cares enough to bear our burdens.
Tanya Marlow says
“Will they stay if I change?” This is a question close to my heart.
I’m grateful to you for asking the questions and sharing a snapshot of how you’ve walked through them. It helps.
Tami Kirkpatrick says
i’m crying over here reading this. I can relate so much~and i adore you!
I loved this post. Been there . . . and sometimes I’m still there. In that place where I wonder if my friends will still be my friends if I change (and I have). Navigating how friendships change and grow through life change is H.A.R.D. And trusting people with our dreams, our fears? I think that’s what makes it hard because we don’t want these tender parts of ourselves to be crushed or rejected. Yeah, I guess I’m there a little bit right now.
Thanks for the exhortation to lay down our fears. I will do that.
In the midst of the pit of depression & anxiety now, no energy to be eloquent but enough to thank you for writing a piece that made a difference for me today.
Beth Williams says
Prayers for God to deliver you from the evils of depression and anxiety! May He draw near to you and bring His healing touch to you mind, body and soul!
Jamie S. Harper says
I needed this reminder. Friendships have always been a struggle for me. I hope to be in this kind of community one day, and even better not to give up on friends before I think they will give up on me. I generally stay, but I have been hurt a lot. And I have been going through some shifting and the friends tend to shift too. I have a couple that I think will stay, but I am not sure if things got really really hard exactly what would happen. I pray to be in an authentic community. Thanks for writing. Always blessed by your words!
Just what I needed to hear today! “Don’t give up…” I can honestly say that I’ve been there done that many times over and stuck it out through it all. BUT this time I was ready to walk away and quit! Thank you for the reminder that hope, faith, friendships, and the CHURCH are all worth fighting for!
Rachel Swanson says
Wow, this was a good read. The story of my life in this season of my life. I love this line, “And what you look back and see is how grateful you are for the questions
and the change, how thankful you are that you didn’t stay the same, how
faithful God is even when you wonder if He’s the woman in The Shack.” I am thankful God is doing so much change in me over these past couple years, major shifts in thinking, powerful shifts that is bringing about so much more fruit and light to others through the stepping out in faith God has me in. Thank you for being such a blessing Amber through your writing and authenticity to others. (Btw – I am still in the process of reading your book and I’m loving it!) XOXO
Joanne Peterson says
I do have to say, when I changed, I did have friends who left. It was very lonely. But, I do have to say those alone times even though they were excruciating were growing times. I found I didn’t know as much as I thought, but found out the foundational truths I trust, are truly there, deep. I’ve been deeply disappointed by the church, but also know Jesus like I didn’t before. Do I need people? Absolutely! I do have a couple of close friends who I trust, and had to forgive, and some that left, are still gone. I don’t have many acquaintances.
Joanne Peterson says
My computer is acting like a word processor gone bad, almost like a monster mind of its own. =0
The friends I do have, I trust, but I know people will let me down. I will too. But, the change needed to come. My whole family changed, we needed to change. It was a many year answer to prayer. But painful?! Horrible, but necessary, and grateful for the change.
Good word Amber, keep speaking it!
Diana Fleenor says
Joanne, I’m so glad you shared about your loss of friends and the loneliness that you experienced. I rejoice with you for the perspective the Lord has given you to be able to see the securing of foundational truths in the midst of the painful circumstances. May the Lord continue to bless you with comfort in His loving presence!
Trish Pederson says
Hi Amber, there is so much about this post I love and all I can think is “koo koo pants!” Been there, friends have done that, and we stay tethered. I have these five friends that God has banded me together with, knit our hearts to one another, and we aren’t pushing away from the table. Nope, not for a second. We cry, laugh, get low with faces to the floor and storm heavens gate together. We have all stayed in our local body when we have watched wounded with an unwillingness to reconcile file out one after the other. We’re still here. We’re clinging to The fringe of His garment and feeling that power go out.
I love women, too! But it wasn’t always this way, I had to ask for it and it came with studying faces. I began to crave to know the soul behind the face. I had to ask for a deep affection for those I would speak to or write for and God has been faithful. I once was guarded, judgmental, a master of comparison, now all I know is that we are all in this together and these are the ones who I can text in the middle of the night or wake to pray with at 5:30 am on Wednesdays.
The kinship is one of the most precious of gifts.
I love your memoir. It spoke “me” to me. Thank you for giving us you.
Diana Fleenor says
Like Joanne said when I changed I had friends who left. The changes in my life were two fold; one happened when I developed disabling reactions to common substances such as fragrances. I could no longer be in the presence of these things and function. It would require others to make notable lifestyle changes for us to be together. Secondly, as in desperate need I began to seek out to understand God’s ways in suffering through His Word, I began to ask questions and initiate spiritual topics on a deeper level than I ever had before. I have experienced others pulling back from me as these conversations seem to make them very uncomfortable. It has been very lonely.
Yet, since I’m convinced that everything in God’s Word is useful to help us grow in knowing Him and His ways, I want to continue to pursue the community that Jesus instructed His disciples to have. It’s hard and heavy as the memories of loss bubble up. I’ve wondered how to proceed as the doors seem to stay closed.
A relevant article came to my attention today talking about persistent prayer even when the Lord is silent. We are encouraged to “cry out to him day and night” (Luke 18:7). The author said, “Real prayer begins with real desire, often with real desperation. We cry to God but he does not seem to respond. We are discouraged by circumstances, and sometimes by people, from continuing to ask. How does God want us to respond to this? He wants us to keeping asking and cry out louder!”
Amber, as I read your beautiful expression of community in the body of Christ where “girlfriend” love is so evident, I was pulled even more to present my plea to the Lord with a louder cry today. So I am putting my hope in the one who can make a way when there seems to be no way! I’m grateful for any prayers you may lift up to Him on my behalf. I pray that He will bless each of you reading here today with the love of the Father and our Lord Jesus first and then the love of authentic Christian community!!
Trish Pederson says
Your story breaks my heart. I will pray for you, Diana, that “you may be rooted and grounded in love and that you may know with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge and be filled to the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly what we may ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” Ephesians 3:17-20.
I pray He directs your steps to a circle of kinship that will wrap their arms and hearts around you and hold you close, dear one! I pray He knits your heart and delicately interweaves it within a beautiful tapestry of colorful women! I pray this with expectation for you!
Diana Fleenor says
Your kind words and love focused prayer touched my heart like a healing balm! Thank you so very much. Your sympathy with my suffering as you brought this treasure of God’s word with it has refreshed my soul today. I love that picture of a “beautiful tapestry of colorful women”. I will hold onto this vision with expectation as well!
Blessings to you,
Beth Williams says
May God bring about a couple good friends whom you can do life with! I pray He will end your loneliness and bring about contentment, peace and happiness! Keep praying and I will also! Soon in His perfect timing He will make a way for you to have friends!!
Diana Fleenor says
Thanks so much, Beth, for your prayers! What a wonderful gift to give my lonely heart. I am encouraged today through it. Yes, I will keep praying and hoping along with you.
Katie Matzenbacher says
Amber – this is just what I needed to hear today. “A shifting faith can be a scary time. You need your people.” So good and so true. Thanks for this.
Jean Bauhaus says
This really resonates. As a shy introvert, I have such a difficult time making friends. I’ve also been burned by most of my female friendships, and that’s left me pretty gun shy about getting too close. To make matters worse, my husband and I are fairly isolated, so it’s not like I have many opportunities to make friends offline. I’m married to my best friend, and we usually have so much fun together that I’m pretty content, but sometimes I get really lonely and hungry for a girlfriend to talk to and do girly stuff with. I have sisters, but we’re all pretty spread out in age and in different life stages and everybody’s super busy, so I hardly ever see them outside of holiday gatherings. I really miss having close women in my life and this is something I’ve been praying about lately.
Beth Williams says
Prayers that God will bring about a rainbow of sisters for you to do girly stuff with! May He take away the lonely and shower you with friendships and community!
Beth Williams says
Loved all the pictures!! You certainly do look great in a fedora!!! I just loved this article. Your writing is superb!!! Life gets messy, ugly and hard. The natural tendency is to retreat and shut the door. God asks us stay–stick it out. Like others here I don’t like working for most women. They tend to be backstabbing, conniving, out for themselves! I have found that when life gets messy and I begin to change–I rush to certain good friends. They are the ones who understand, love you no matter what! Sometimes change can be good. I have found that during my 1.5 year trial with my aging dad-moving into assisted living, many medical issues, and now on hospice-that I have grown more and more in my Christian living. I find myself praying more and wanting more of God! Most of my women friends have stayed with me during my change!
Lina Rochette Hill says
I’m finally reading this post today and you know what? God’s timing is perfect as always! Thank you for your honesty and your vulnerability to write these words that I desperately needed to hear. Bless you!