So You Want a Friend to Fill Your Cup

“It’s the last place I want to be,” I cried to my husband. Tears streamed down my face. As terrible as it sounded coming from my mouth, the words spewed from my lips in relief. In a few hours, the church small group we had joined would be meeting, but I didn’t want to be there. The problem? All the brokenness.

We were a gathering of ordinary broken people all desperately searching for friendship. However, my own need for community felt so tender, so raw.

Empathy is high on my strengths. That’s what made going to group hard week after week. I felt everyone’s concerted longings and efforts to be accepted for who they were. Even worse, I felt MY longing.

I had begged God for friends for months, but I had criteria. I wanted mentors to pour into me, confidence to be spoken over me, and someone to heal my broken heart. I wanted people who would fill my cup.

When the group turned out to be a bunch of newbies like me, I realized this wasn’t what I had pictured.

Was it too much to ask for a friendship with someone who wasn’t as needy as me?

All Dried Up

Years of mediocre community leaves a heart parched and overbearing. The cracks in my spirit were so deep and barren, any amount of water or friendship would never have been enough. It’s like I needed to guzzle a pitcher of cool water, then ask for another so I could bathe in it.

I was saying in passive overbearance, “Love me exactly like I need to be loved. Fill me with friendship to make up for these years of pain and loneliness. Now. Please. Heal me, so I don’t have to live with this feeling of rejection anymore.”

We Can’t Fix Each Other

Demanding people to heal all our personal wounds is a surefire way to snuff out friendship before it begins.Tweet This

I’ve seen my loneliness as something needing to be fixed for a long, long time. Recently I wrote in my journal, “Do I see my brokenness as a problem to fix or as a blessing for others?”

When we expect others to meet all our needs and fix what only God can repair, our expectations can easily become a possessiveness and violence rather than an exchange of love and blessing.*

I couldn’t see how much Jesus loved them because I was focused on how they weren’t meeting my needs.

Ice Cream Helps

After I spilled my feelings to my husband, he saw I needed something else, “OK, don’t go. Get out of the house.” So I drove to the park and sat in my car. I listened to a prayer on my phone. I still felt lonely, but less alone. I reflected on the freedom of saying my desires and my gaping need aloud to God.

Then I went to McDonald’s and ordered a large ice water and an ice cream cone. (I really think a cup of water and a sugary vanilla cone can cure a world of ills.) While the brokenness didn’t vanish, a sense of sweetness, love and being known washed over me. The weather outside my car was bone-chilling, but I sat in the parking lot so filled with God’s friendship, I thought I might burst.

Could our brokenness be an entry point for recognizing Christ’s belovedness in each other?Tweet This

I believe it can.

People can fill us up, but only halfway. We’ve got to run to God first. He’s the only One who can feed our deep hunger and quench our thirst.

I’ve got to recognize Christ in me, then I can see Christ in you.

That day I was able to go to group and be myself, mostly. It wasn’t amazing, but it was better. We were all there as empty cups longing to be filled. I poured Diet Coke into mine with less shame for my need or the aspartame I was consuming. I turned to the lady next to me and by some miracle, I thought of a big need in her family and asked about it. With God’s help, I was able to focus completely on her.

Clearly, it was the ice cream talking.

A Playlist When You Need a Friend

Music heals my soul. Maybe it does for you too?

* Henri Nouwen, The Life of the Beloved, sermon, 2011.

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April 3, 2017