by Laurisa Ballew
After a brutal few days at the hospital with my daughter, I had run home to catch a shower that didn’t require me to wear flip flops during, and to grab some clean clothes. I remember feeling so tired; exhaustion didn’t even touch on the levels of tired I was feeling. I headed to the bathroom and jumped in the shower. I remember standing there with the scorching water pouring over me, head bowed, too tired to even cry.
I felt so alone.
We had been anything but alone on this specific hospital stay; but, in my core, I felt the weight of my daughter’s illness and it was a burden that, in a lot of ways, I was carrying alone. I am a pediatric nurse by trade and so the numbers, lab values, and complications, all mean something to me. They are either encouraging or ominous, and in this hospitalization they had all been ominous.
At the time we had some people working on our house, so I didn’t feel alarmed when I got out of the shower and heard a couple of voices outside of the door. I was perhaps a little bit unprepared, as I only had my towel, but with great confidence I dried off, wrapped my towel tight around myself and stepped out. I made a dash to my bedroom three feet away.
As I walked into my room, I was greatly surprised to see my very best friend standing there rummaging through my messy closet. She had neatly folded several of my “go to” outfits on the bed. She was equally as surprised to see me. Seeing her there, unexpectedly, brought hot tears to the corners of my eyes.
I am not good at asking for what I need.
I don’t want to be a burden to people and, honestly, I often don’t even know what would be helpful for me. But to see the woman, that knows me better than most all others on the earth, in my closet, getting ready to bring me clothes, truly touched me. I shouldn’t have been surprised. She has a tendency to fill in the gaps and anticipate my needs. That probably has come with the twenty years of friendship we have behind us. But it reminded me, even in a time when I felt isolated, that my friends were not contributing to those feelings.
The Bible is very clear that we are not meant to be alone in life.
We are supposed to have community around us to support us and sharpen us. But, even if we are surrounded by people, it is still possible to be completely isolated. I have become aware, in the recent past, that feelings of isolation or loneliness in my life are my own doing. Instead of being vulnerable with the friends I have, I choose to live at a surface level.
It is hard to be vulnerable.
Opening up in vulnerability allows people in to delicate places in your life. And in this, our guards are lowered and we could be hurt. None of us like to be hurt. Cause it HURTS. But being alone is also a pretty hurtful place to be in. I am not suggesting you bare the tender places of your soul to everyone you encounter but, instead, that we bravely choose vulnerability in trusted relationships.
"As iron sharpens iron so a friend sharpens a friend.” - Proverbs 27:17
When my friend showed up to my house to pack me clean clothes without me asking, she was being vulnerable. It might seem, initially, that she was just serving me, and she was serving me, but being willing to swing and miss with a potential need feels a bit risky even with your closest friends. Seeing her willingness to serve me without me asking opened me up to deeper vulnerability with her as well.
Her step towards me helped me to let down my guard to step towards her in return.
Recently I wanted to take a newer friend dinner who was having a hard week. And I spent about half the day doubting my gesture. What if it wasn’t well received? What if I bought something they wouldn’t eat? I don’t know their preferences, do they have allergies? And then I remembered how, during that same hospitalization, I came home to food in my fridge.
Someone had gone to Costco and bought us random food and when I opened the fridge one night and discovered there were ready-to-eat options I about cried. They weren’t foods I would normally buy, but they were provided and ready, and I was beyond grateful. I ended up taking our new friends dinner and it was a more than welcome gesture to that weary mama.
In relationships we must step out, we must become vulnerable. We must stop over-thinking things and learn how to love well. We will not always get it right. But if we do nothing and skip the vulnerability, we definitely aren’t getting it right! Jesus invited His disciples into His life and He spoke honestly into theirs. And those jokers swung and missed A LOT. And He didn’t chastise them…He loved them. Vulnerability isn’t natural. Jesus showed us that we MUST practice it, and we must be gentle and forgiving when our friends get it wrong.
We might need to be even more gentle and forgiving with ourselves when we get it wrong.
We need each other. In our singleness we need friends. In our marriages we need friends. In raising tiny humans we need friends. In the places of hard times and of joy we need friends. And not just people gathered around us, but people we are willing to open up to, become vulnerable with, and people who will do the same in return.