Freedom in Friendship

love

William Shakespeare’s Sonnet number 116 has long been a favorite of mine. But more recently I came across the above quote by Adam Clarke. At first I found it difficult to hold both of these statements to be true. On first look they seem to be mutually exclusive, such opposing ideas that I feel my brain being tied into a knot. For my purposes I don’t speak of romantic love but of friendship (but I love my friends, so forgive me my broad interpretation). Here is my quandary: when does faithfulness in a friendship cross the line into lack of self-respect, by staying when things are terribly dysfunctional? On deeper inspection, I find these quotes to be quite complimentary.

Shakespeare is indeed right when he says “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” Love is faithful and kind and patient and covers a multitude of sins.

Clarke is also right that “love requires love as its recompense,” for true friendship must be reciprocal in nature. Genuine friendship is not an exchange of goods, services, and presents; a “this for that” mentality does not make for a lasting friendship. The only thing required is the exchange of goodwill, kindness and truth spoken in love. A friendship without mutual respect and the permission to allow each other to grow and change creates shackles rather than freedom.

Maybe I should be reading these quotes the other way around. There can only be loyalty, love, and faithfulness in a friendship (love which does not alter) when friendship has been given freely (love begetting love) first. Love does not flee at the first sign of trouble; adversely, love does not require oneself to be bullied, manipulated and disrespected for the sake of loyalty.

As a Christian these quotes will only get me so far. Scripture is really my only compass to navigate the choppy waters of evaluating my relationships. I have found the following verses particularly helpful:

“friendships” to avoid

Proverbs 18:24
There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 16:28
A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.

Proverbs 22:24–25
Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.

friendships to cherish and cultivate

Proverbs 27:9
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.

Proverbs 18:24
A man [or woman] who has friends must show himself [or herself] friendly. And there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother [or sister].

Ecclesiastes 4:-12
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

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Busy – by Marya Mendelsohn

The wind blew freshness into my face
But it tangled my hair,
So I closed the window.

 The sunlight filled the room with gold
But it hurt my eyes,
So I closed the shade.

 The flowers turned my backyard into a rainbow
But they made me sneeze,
So I didn’t water them.

 The birds sang me love songs
But they distracted me from work,
So I shooed them away.

 Heaven came and knocked on my door
But I was busy
And didn’t answer.

many thanks to my dear friend Marya for allowing me to share her poem!

The Pictures in My Head

Many writers say they write because they have to. I always rolled my eyes and felt that it was a terribly clichéd thing to say.

I don’t roll my eyes anymore.

I write because I have to.

When I was little I had aspirations to be an artist. I loved to draw. I drew all the time and carried a sketch pad with me everywhere. But I was a terrible artist. I would get so frustrated, because I had a picture in my head about what I felt, and I wanted to show everyone else. I had no way to accomplish it. I had no way to put down on paper, or in clay, or on canvas the things I saw in my head. So the pictures stayed locked away for almost 20 years.

A few years ago I was having a terribly hard time. Things at my job had been going downhill for about a year and a half. It was a slow and steady boiling of the water, and much like the frog, I was being scalded. I had been in the soup for a while before I realized I was being cooked. The situation deteriorated quickly and after months of manipulation and dodging, the decision was made to close our branch. Within a one week period of time I turned 30, was downsized from my job, said goodbye to my grandpa (he made it to 92 God bless him) and was dumped twice by text message. By the same doofus.

I also have underlying issues of clinical depression and anxiety. And a host of things in my life that, at the time, I was refusing to acknowledge. I was hurting. I was sad. I was lost about what I should do and where I should go. It was a bad time, and I have no wish to relive it, but looking back over those terrible weeks which stretched into terrible months, I can honestly see God’s mercy. Sounds naive. Sounds mad. Sounds…cliched. But it’s true. I am a master procrastinator (some slam poetry right there…booyah) and I had decades worth of garbage that I was pushing deep, deep, deep down. I hoarded everything, although somehow it was only the bad, grimy pieces I kept and not the bright shiny ones.

I began to see a therapist who happened to be a Christian. I’d seen therapists before, so this wasn’t a new process for me. However, most of my experience was with therapists who were condescending or openly hostile towards my beliefs; and the few who were sympathetic where only interested in pushing medication (side-note, I am all for medication if it helps you, and I reject the stigma in some Christian circles that depression is simply an issue of sin…but that’s a post for another day). Bob was my first  therapist who wanted to know about me. He wanted to know about my heart. He asked me questions about my motivations and aspirations. And he was not afraid to hand me my own ass if the situation required it.

I was having a really difficult time even focusing on a coherent thought, let alone praying. It’s kind of hard to pray to God when you’re angry with Him. Bob suggested writing out my prayers. It would force me to acknowledge the bad feelings rather than pushing them down while putting on the brave Christian face. It would force me to take my time, to realize why I was mad, or sad, or even happy. His other suggestion was to model them after the Psalms. I had never noticed it before, but King David was pretty pissed in some of those Psalms. He’s mad and sad. But he usually ends happy, choosing to put his faith in his Maker.

You see, my brain is full of junk, piles of old newspapers stacked to the ceiling and garbage littering the floor. But it’s also full of treasures. I have pictures in my head. Words are the only medium I have found to get them out.

That’s why I write.

Tantrum

Heavy laden. I am weary.
Mind is dull and eyes are bleary.
Promises you made seem lost.
Among the violent waves I’m tossed.
Hint of a pledge rings in my ears
But I find it hard to hear
Your voice among my angry storm.
But you still bid me come.
Promise, pledge, oath and vow.
I think I hear your whisper now,
Just barely over all my rage.
I want to free you from this cage,
Of self pursuit and dreams most wild.
I’ll give you better things my child.
Things you would not dare to dream.
And though, impossible it seems,
I have plans, not to harm,
But prosper you. If in my arms
You’ll find your comfort and your way
I’ll bring you to a brighter day
.”
His whisper not his shout is heard
And even though my mind’s still blurred
I see the burning of the dawn
And know he’ll lead me home.

originally written on 8/24/11

One Who Sees

steady weeping rain
drums against the window pane
mourning over agonies
that I’m too blind to see.

a God with power who doesn’t care
might as well not e’en be there.
a God who cares but doesn’t see
is not all that much good to me.

there must be One who sees all things
the fallen sparrow with broken wing
who cares enough to intercede
when I can’t even see.

In the end…

“I was just a boy when I sat down
To watch the news on TV
I saw some ordinary slaughter
I saw some routine atrocity
My father said, don’t look away
You got to be strong, you got to be bold, now
He said, that in the end it is beauty
That is going to save the world, now.”
Nick Cave

I hate watching the news. To give a general idea of how long it’s been since I’ve watched a nightly news program, I just found out today that OJ Simpson is in jail for a Las Vegas robbery which occurred in 2007. Yes, I’m embarrassed, and yes I know I need to know more about what’s going on around me. But I cannot stand Fox News or CNN or the multitude of other mega networks who feature screaming heads adding to the din and confusion of our cultural and political climate. I recently took to reading alternative news blogs but found the message boards even more depressing, filled with pithy little catch phrases like “Faux news, Obamacon, feminazis, mansplain, corpocrats, banksters (ok that one is funny),” and blah, blah, blah, blah, BLAH. Recent events have left me sad and bewildered: the Newton massacre, the Steubenville rape case, the Gosnell trial, the Boston bombing, and just two days ago the fire and explosion in Waco, TX.  And none of it is beyond being politicized.  How can the rape of a minor in Steubenville be politicized? I learned quite easily when I read this exchange on one message board for an article titled The top 5 rape apologist reactions to the Steubenville rape verdict:

garbageamericaiscrumbling • a month ago
Unbelievable how fucked up some people are.
invictus2 -> garbageamericaiscrumbling • a month ago
At least they all flock together under one banner. Conservative hypocrites. The biggest group is in the GOP tent.
Guest -> invictus2 • a month ago
seriously, how is this article being used in the comments as a left vs right argument? rape and rape culture isn’t a partisan issue. it’s a HUMAN issue. attempting to paint the horrible reactions in the article as either “democrat” or “republican” is tacky and gross. clearly we all agree that this was rape, that this was bad, and that blaming the victim for even a second sucks ass. check the ideologies at the door and remember that not everyone who votes differently from you is a monster
invictus2 -> Guest • a month ago
They are what they are. It’s the right, and their christo fanatics that are raining a puritan rage on all things sexual. I don’t see a bill a week to control sexual process freedom or functions coming from democrats. They are all coming from the republicons in the house and republicon contolled state governments. It wasn’t a left leaning media outlet that outed the victim. It was the conservative republicon media arm Fox. It was republicons that made course and objectionable rape comments for most of the last election cycle
Guest -> invictus2 • a month ago
ok, even if your viewpoint is accurate, what in the world does that have to do with THIS case or THIS article?
invictus2 -> Guest • a month ago
It voices and perpetuates the rights disgusting memes as discussion, when they should be shunned by the media. The media should be the story, and that includes MSNBC, CNN, and FOX. We don’t have any NEWS media. I’ve been waiting all day for coverage of Rachels expose last night on Nixons treason
Guest -> invictus2 • a month ago
um…like I said, what does that have to do with a teenage girl getting raped?

Blecccchhhhhh. gross. And sad. But then I remember it’s not only my civic duty to be an informed citizen, it’s because I wholeheartedly agree with Nick Cave. At the risk of sounding like a neo-con religious fanatic (see, message boards are good for teaching me new terms) I also believe what Jesus said is true; and somehow I have hope to turn on the TV again tomorrow…because the end has not yet come.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”  Matthew 24:6

Embers

God who is in heaven.
Bathe my smokey heart.
Anger once was justified, but it has played its part.
What first was cleansing fire
Has left me brittle bones.
The flames have burned straight through me, searing all my soul.
Rain your mercy down now.
Subdue the smoldering rage.
Snuff out these embers raising smoke. Unlock this seething cage.

fire

Blessing and rewards?

wpid-IMG_20130328_233506.jpg

God promises so little in this life in terms of material comfort. He does not promise a spouse. He does not promise a high salary. He does not promise a life free of sickness and pain or hurt and disappointment. He does promise wisdom. He promises peace. He promises strength to be happy, trusting and joyful in even the hardest situations. And He promises Himself. This isn’t Candidian optimism. It’s faith in action.

     Proverbs 8:17 (ASV) “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.”

     James 4:8 (the Message – paraphrase) “So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit.

I thoroughly reject the Gospel of Prosperity.  It is a disservice to tell Christians that if they perform well, or do X, Y, or Z, they will have all their wildest dreams come true.  Some Christians will never realize those successes in this life, through no fault of their own. Telling people that they will have monetary or professional success if they love God enough can only lead to depression and cynicism if those specific blessings never come through.

     John 9:1-3 (NIV) “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

     Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

All that said, go and make the life you’ve desired, as long as you can do it with a clear conscience that’s been enlightened by God’s word. Be BRAVE and may you be successful and joyful beyond even your wildest dreams.

Many Blessings this Easter