I invite a few close friends over for a grown-up tea party, and before they arrive, I rhythmically move around the table arranging small crustless sandwiches, lemon bars, scones, and cream. I set out my beloved Noritake gold rimmed plates, teacups, and saucers — our wedding china. I smile remembering all the times I’ve used this china, and I think again how thankful I am to get to love on my friends and myself by using it once again. The good life is for giving ourselves a little attention by enjoying the good things rather than keeping them hidden away.
I set out the porcelain tea bag holders and little stirring spoons. I realize I forgot the water goblets and then remember that one friend won’t be joining us, and I find uninvited tears showing up before the party.
It’s silly to be crying, really. I mean, this friend didn’t die. We didn’t have a big fight or a dramatic falling out. Our friendship just changed, unfolded into a new season. And that new season has me a little sad because I just miss her.
I stare at the dining room chair at the end of the table and briefly contemplate taping her picture to the seat-back. Or maybe even just leaving one seat empty in her honor? I don’t, of course, because that would be a little crazy. But sometimes we want to give the loss a tangible space to be remembered.
I would love to simply give love all the attention. But for many, loss is the tagalong companion to love, and it’s impossible for loss not to get a little attention too.
Today, my heart holds sadness for a friendship that doesn’t look the way it used to. For you, maybe there is a sadness for the same — or from a different kind of relationship that doesn’t look the way you wish.
If that’s the case, may I humbly offer these truths to help during the hard moments? Here are five truths to ease the changing seasons of friendships:
1. Give your sadness a safe space. Don’t skip over the sadness. Give yourself permission to mourn the loss for an appropriate amount of time. Let it have its say, but don’t let it be your boss because hope always gets the last word.
2. Don’t assume there’s something wrong with you. When a friendship or other relationship changes, it’s easy to look inward and think, What did I do wrong? Instead look upward and assume that for now, God simply wants your attention elsewhere. Trust Jesus with your reputation as well as this situation.
3. Believe God continues to give His best to you. This includes people who are best for you.
4. Pray God’s best for your friend. Whatever the particulars behind the relationship change, let’s remember to represent Jesus well by letting the situation bring out the best in us, not the worst.
5. Fervently thank God for the vibrant relationships you do have. Even if it’s just one friend, and that friend moved five states away. Or even if that friend is the one preoccupied with a new baby or busy with a new job. Thank God for who is present at your table and in your life.
And in this month that finds so many of our children and loved ones in a new school year, I pray these truths over all those young’uns looking for life-giving friendships in their lives.
It takes strength and courage to hold our relationships in upturned palms instead of squeezed in our tight fists, to say, You are welcome to stay here, but I won’t bolt you inside. Some seasons call for bravery in the form of staying close. Other times, a season calls for bravery in the form of keeping our distance. In those moments, may we continue to give ourselves a little attention by enjoying the good things — and good people — around us. And may we also see all the ways God gives us gifts — gifts that are signs of Love present everywhere.