A little over two years ago, I headed to church one evening for a women's Bible study. I don't remember what topics we were discussing that night, but something prompted me to open up to the women around me.
"I have a hard time being vulnerable enough to make the types of close friendships that I really want," I admitted, crying. "I want to start being vulnerable."
Opening oneself up to friendship can be hard. There's a lot of risk involved! I had a lot of friends, but I didn't have a best friend, and I wanted one. Yes, my husband is my best friend, but I'm talking about the type of friendship that a woman can offer! I wanted someone I'd automatically turn to when I needed a girlfriend to talk to--and I didn't have that in my life.
Afterward, a couple of the women came and talked to me. We said we wanted to be closer. One of those women was Ann.
Ann and I had been friends for a couple of years already. In fact, I'd felt that she was offering me deeper friendship. But I wasn't sure--we were so different! You've read about the ways that we treat books differently. It wasn't just that, though. Ann is German, and she tells it like it is. One day I told her, "You wear your heart on your sleeve!" and then had to explain the expression to her. She agreed that it fits her perfectly! You know where you stand with Ann, good or bad! I, on the other hand, can be overly concerned with how my actions affect others--so much that I try to avoid conflicts, even necessary ones.
But that night, something opened up in me, and something opened up in Ann too. Since then, we've built a friendship that has blessed my life more than I ever expected. I learn from Ann's honesty. I think she learns from my sensitivity too! We discuss parenting, and faith, and so many other things...and while we don't always agree, we sharpen each other like iron.
Recently Ann returned from a trip to the East coast. She'd visited New York City, and came back with an "I (heart) NY" shirt for me. "I figured you hadn't gotten one of these when you were in New York a couple of years ago," she told me with a laugh.
Well, I had gotten one, but I didn't want to make her feel bad, so I just laughed too, and thanked her.
Later, I realized, Ann would have just 'fessed up and told me the truth...and she'd want me to tell her too! So I sent her an email confessing that, thanks to her, I now have two "I (heart) NY" shirts. She thought the whole thing was funny, and so did I. More importantly, it was such a relief knowing that I could be honest with her, even with something so silly.
That's the type of friendship that I needed--an honest friendship with someone who stretches me in good ways. Having gone without it for so long, I have enormous appreciation for it now.
Recently we made it official and started using the "best friends" term. It's been an important way for us to to tell each other how special our friendship is. Does it mean neither of us will ever have another friend who's just as close? Of course not! I think one of the great things about our relationship is that we're each learning more about how to be a good friend. I hope that what we're discovering will help us develop other beautiful relationships as time passes, even as we continue to grow our own friendship.
And it all started with vulnerability. It started with me being willing to admit a weakness that was robbing me of what I needed. It started with Ann being willing to respond, offering her friendship--and accepting mine.
It was a risk. But most worthwhile things are. And I'm glad it's a risk we both took.
I love you, Ann! Thank you for being such a wonderfully devoted best friend!
Edited to add: Turns out Ann had a post saved in her Drafts folder that went right along with this one. She posted it today. It made me cry...in a good way! Here is her post: Click here.