This week’s Self-care Sunday installment comes to us from Tanya Gioia. She talks about the importance of saying yes to friendship–even when it feel scary.

Standing at the kitchen window doing dishes one morning, I heard the phone ring.  We lived far enough out of town that a landline was still required.

Wiping my hands, I reached out for the phone wondering who could this be?  

“Hello?”

“Hi, this is Sadie, from Al-Anon, I just called to see how you were doing?”

I gave the auto response of “fine, just fine, thank you,” when in fact I was far from fine.  I was lonely, confused, sad, burdened and desperately in need of a friend who understood how crazy my life was.

Sadie continued, “I woke up this morning with you on my heart.”  She sounded a little nervous.

I felt a little nervous.  This woman and I attended the same Al-Anon meeting.  I knew a little of her story and she knew some of mine, but I didn’t really “know her”.  

What she said next brought me comfort and joy.  “I felt God urging me to call you this morning while I was praying.”

“Me, God asked you to call me?  A person you hardly know?” my brain shouted.

I stood in amazement that this woman that I knew to be shy stepped through her shyness and reached out to a virtual stranger just because God mentioned it to her.

Wow! Alone, out on 20 acres with 2 kids, two horses, and 300 chickens, life can be pretty lonely.  Sadie’s call offered adult conversation and friendship from someone that did not require a fake smile or a well rehearsed answer about my crippled marriage and family life.

From our experience together in Al-Anon, I knew that both our husband’s were struggling with alcohol and drug abuse–an ugly shared bond that left us both feeling isolated and in need of a friend who understood.

Dropping the Mask in Godly Friendships

I could drop the “I’m fine mask” in this friendship.  She already knew. She knew and called anyway.

This one conversation started a long friendship.  A friendship not founded in grief and pain as you might expect from the wreckage of our lives at the time, but one based on the unending love of God.

Sadie mustered the courage to reach out.  I let go enough to accept. Both of us needed to believe in ourselves and God enough to drop the false fronts and connect.

Reaching out to someone in need might feel scary, but saying yes to friendship is saying yes to self-care. Why we need friends. #friends #friendship #alanon

Making friends as adults is a peculiar dance.  The demands of work and family seem all consuming. There does not seem to be time to just hang-out and get to know people.  

Have you ever been brave enough to pick up the phone and call another adult you barely knew and say, “Hey, I was thinking about you, let’s go grab a cup of coffee”

It seems odd that making friends should get harder as we mature.  If we look at the short life of Jesus he constantly sought out new relationships.  

Zacheus, is a favorite story of mine.  An outcast, small in physical stature, he climbs a tree to see this man who (while famous for the moment) was also hated by the respectable Jews.   

Call it courage or curiousity, either way Zacheus went out of his way to see Jesus.  And Jesus– already knowing Zacchaeus story as a trader in the eyes of his his fellow Jews because he served the Roman Empire as a tax collector–told him he would join him for dinner that night.

Everyone in town thought Zacchaeus was not worthy enough to share a meal with Jesus (the Teacher) that night.

Zacchaeus could have run away and hid or said “No Lord, I am not worthy and you can’t come to my home.”  He did not have to take Jesus’ offering of friendship

Why We Shun Friendship

When we feel like our lives are a mess, that we are outside the bounds of “normal” life, we may shun others offers of friendship.  Not because the offer is not genuine, but because the voice in our own heads says we do not want anyone to see our mess.

The voice in our heads may say

If Sadie really knew me well…

If Sadie had any idea what was really going on, she would never call.
Maybe, when I get my life together, I can have friends.
How do I have time for friends when I am in the middle of this mess in my life?

Authentic friendships do not wait for the mess to be cleared away.  God designed us for community with each other.

Galatians 6:2–”Carry each other’s burdens and in this way fulfill the law of Christ.”

Authentic friendships do not wait for the mess to be cleared away. via @TheJoyousFam Click To Tweet

All things are made lighter when sharing.  Sadie and I lived with a shared burden of alcoholic husbands.  Bearing this burden together brought relief.

Already knowing that we carried a similar burden allowed us to leave a lot of the heavy lifting to God.  Sadie and I spent time together going to dinner, children’s events, walking and just touching base.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live in unity together!”  Psalm 133:1

An authentic relationship between friends does not disappear when burdens and hardships appear in our lives.  God designed Christian friendships to run to the hurting people in our lives.

“A man with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother.”   Proverbs 18:24

Jesus offers us himself in many ways.  One way is through Godly friends. Friends that stick to us no matter the issue.  

Developing this friendship at a time when my husband was unavailable for healthy, fun interactions is one of the ways I took care of myself.

I needed a space to be me without having to pretend everything was all right.  I also wanted that space to be joyful despite the confusion of my home life

I am eternally grateful that God touched Sadie’s heart all those years ago. My gratitude deepens even more as I think of the courage Sadie found to make that first phone call.  My thankfulness doubles that God gave me the sense not to run and hide from this offer. Even in my shame I did not run from the offer.

Nurturing Friendship as an Act of Self-Care

When “life” happens to us we might run to God but we often fear the judgement of “friends”.   Running away from friendship only deepens our despair and isolation. Worse yet, it pulls us away from God.

“Where two or more are gather in my name, there am I with them.”  Matthew 18:24 Jesus says that not because he is unable or unwilling to be with us alone; He is always in the midst of our lives.

This verse is about our need for each other–our human need to feel the connection of others around us during times of joy and sorrow.  Worse yet, without others to confirm God’s goodness to us in times of trouble, we often entertain doubts. When we stumble with good companions they  prevent a fall.

“For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.”  Ecclesiastes. 4:10

There are two facets to this type of self-care.  
1) The courage to say yes when someone reaches out to you.

2) The willingness to reach out to someone with burdens.

Be a Zacchaeus

Scripture does not tell us why Zacchaeus climbed the tree other than without more height he would have missed seeing Jesus. I think just like God touched Sadie’s heart, God touched Zacchaeus’s heart saying, “Hey you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity.”

Choosing to take a risk, Zacchaeus climbed the tree, just like Sadie picked up the phone and made that first call

Responding to God takes courage.  Listening to God takes stillness. Unlike the chicken and the egg I can tell you which comes first.  

Stillness–to hear God

Courage–to follow God

Humbleness–to accept the gift of friendship

Is there a place in your life where God is prompting you to reach out?  Is there a person or group you need to find the courage to say yes to?

This week you can look for a places in your life to be a Zacchaeus. You can climb out of your own mess long enough to see Jesus and accept his invitation to fellowship.

Tanya is a jump first, look later kind of writer and podcaster.  Her deep love for Christ keeps her trying new ideas to get the message of Jesus out.  No matter what your hurt, habit or hang-up in life is Jesus just wants to be with you. After barely surviving a deeply wounded marriage crushed by substance abuse, codependency, anger, depression, and financial hardship, Tanya and her handsome husband Jerry now host a podcast called Sober on Purpose.  The podcast along with The Joyous Family Blog and private facebook group are designed to serve newly sober families. Encouraging and loving on families, who now find themselves trying to navigate “life on life’s terms” without turning to an addictive substances or behaviors, are the goals of of both the podcast and the blog.  Join the conversation over in the https://www.facebook.com/thejoyousfamily/ and find the Joy of the Lord as your strength.

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