Friday, January 21, 2011

A very long-winded way to say: I'm thankful.

In 2011 -- as far as I can tell -- I'll be living in the same place I spent 2010 in, and doing the same stuff I spent 2010 doing. But it feels like a new beginning all the same. For one thing, I'm sharing a home with my parents and little brother again. For another, both my sisters have just settled into new homes and are expecting new babies in the first half of the year. And there's this thing of me looking for a new, more local, church community. So there is still a lot of newness about this new year.

Of course, though, with the beginning of one thing comes the end of something else, and the end leaves me pondering the bleak truth that we don't always leave an impression behind us. Sometimes we're just... forgotten.

This, in turn, has made me think long and ponderous thoughts about the nature of friendship and, in fact, most kinds of social interaction. I confess that, sometimes, it all seems like a bizarre dance and I don't know the right moves. At other times, this idea of interacting -- especially within the church where, idealistically, I tend to imagine that relational barriers won't exist -- feels sort of like a reverse emperor's new clothes: we spend all our time piling on more and more ridiculous layers, and none of us is bold enough -- or cares enough, possibly -- to be naked (and of course I mean this figuratively) before each other. There are some who are willing to get to that soul nakedness -- by which I mean being really real, really loving, and really telling the truth -- but there is no one who sees enough or notices enough or cares enough to respect and appreciate that vulnerability. How many of us have shared a deep need or a sincere heart's cry only to have it evaporate, unnoticed, in the air?

We laugh as we relish the seemingly bizarre societal conventions that so complicate the romance of Darcy and Elizabeth, but we're surrounded by just as many ourselves. They take a different form, of course, but they exist all the same. Just as in the days of Bingleys and Bennets, beauty opens relational doors where plainness does not. Similarly, those with charm and charisma may find pathways into friendships where quieter people do not. And one social trick that often trips me up is the sense that involvement seems to equal relationship, especially where church life is concerned -- but of course it doesn't. We feel connected to someone because we go to school with them, or we both teach the same Sunday school class, or we helped out with that thing that time, or she goes to the same writer's group as I do. We feel connected because we are in proximity. But when circumstances change and the proximity lessens, the relationship is proven for what it is. A true friendship survives all that, but others... don't. And it can hurt to be reminded that we are not as valued, loved, connected, or even as remembered as we'd hoped.

And all of this, in turn (I feel like Fiddler on the Roof's Tevye, with his multitude of 'other hands'), makes me realise how very very blessed I am by the handful of really true, really dear friends I do know. Interestingly, only one of them lives in the same neighbourhood as me. Many live outside Queensland and even outside Australia. Most of them I have known for many years, and some of them I'll only see once or twice a year, if that. Some are related to me. With others, I have nothing external in common. But all of them are people who don't require me to pile on the layers in order to be their friend. In fact with these precious people I don't need to be anything. I don't need to be loud or quiet, funny or serious, pretty or plain, dressed up or dressed down, happy or sad, ultra religious or worldly wise. And because of their unconditional love and their lack of relational requirements, I can actually just simply be the flawed person that I am, loving them and growing along the path that God has for me, as content to sit alongside them watching a movie as engaged in discussions about the real challenges of living faithfully.

Such a level of grace and commitment and get-along-with-ability is a rare thing; I'm learning this all the time. So here's to those precious ones whose kindness and love are beautiful, cheering, comfortable reminders of what great relationships are really like. Love to you!

* * * * *


Samantha R -- bravo, you! Relish your year of yes!

Rebecca Simon -- it was indeed. Are you home and settled again now?

Katie -- so true. Happy things mean life goes on.

Elisabeth -- really? You're one of my adventuring heroes whom I feel convinces says "yes" to everything! PS. I owe you an email. Coming soon.

Simplythis -- you little Brisbane local, you.

Nan -- thank you for dropping by. xx


  1. Wow, this is really well written. The Emperors New Clothes/layers analogy is great. I get it.

  2. You have such a way with words. I can feel all those things but can never say it. Thankyou for challenging me to think harder and get deeper.

  3. Very insightful post. The truth is that we in the church, which after all is the 'body of Christ', don't yet really understand what it means to love. Sad to me that a young woman such as yourself, whose mind is alive with ideas and who expresses well the 'joie de vivre' should have this experience. You're right, of course, our true friends don't have to live close by. It is truly wonderful and a blessed gift to have real and true friends no matter where they are!

  4. Thank you for sharing this Danielle, and doing exactly what you write about! You have been an example to me in the way you share and write about the experiences that mean a lot to you - truly taking off the 'layers'.
    Thank you so much for being so honest and true!
    Much love, Abbie x

  5. What a blessing this post is :-)
    I too am so thankful for those friendships that stand the test of time and changes of life and circumstances - the kind you can just pick up where you left off!

    Yes, I am home to my nest and hubby again - it's great!

  6. Really! I'm rather a Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde that way. Which means I would rather world travel than drive to the grocery store. And that every new step is likely to be combined with weeping and gnashing of teeth. I keep hoping that I'll catch on to God's trustworthiness earlier next time...;O)

  7. I think of friendships like this: each shared interest, viewpoint, and memory is like a thread connecting people. The strongest, most enduring friendships are the ones that have lots of threads. Sure, I met someone at college, got to know her on Prayer Team, but she became my best friend because of late night laughing and crying, all the crazy adventures we took together, and the smiles we send each other every week or two.

    Proximity is too flimsy a thread to hold a relationship together; it must be expanded to survive. So I guess I'm saying, YES! I AGREE! ;-)

    I hope that sometime in the not too distant future I will be able to spend some time laughing and adventuring with you and strengthening the rainbow threads of our lovely friendship. :-) In the meantime I will (resignedly) content myself to digital dialogue.

  8. Everyone's comments are so much more eloquent than mine, but I just gotta add to it- preach it girl! Such great words!

  9. I haven't commented yet because I couldn't seem to write the right words down. :) But I know that you won't care about the "right" words, so thought I'd just say I know what you mean and friendship can be one of the hardest and yet most rewarding things ever! Love to you!!

  10. Beautiful, Danielle! Thank so much for sharing what many of us could never put into words. xxx

  11. Yes. You are right. And these social "barriers" are things that something in my heart rebels against. Perhaps because as the plainer, quieter sort of girl much of my life has felt lonely because somehow I never "fit" and couldn't find a way to break through the probably not even intentional barriers that kept me on the outside.

    And yet, there are others. Others who are precious friends and I can't help but think once in a while: why me? of all the people they could be friends with, why me?

    And for those friends who don't care about status or level of education or how pretty or how plain, but who share and love and laugh and who I count as my friends, I too am thankful.

  12. All of the above and with many more thoughts provoked :-)

    (can you also let me know how you go with finding and settling into a new church. I need to email you...) xxx


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