Saturday, October 26, 2013

Somethin' Stupid

I have two lines running through my head.

For years now, one of my "mantras" has been one originating with two dear internet friends:  "God must be God and love must be enough."

A few weeks ago I walked away from a brief encounter and  the following line from an old song popped into my head:  "And then I go and spoil it all by saying somethin' stupid like 'I love you.' "  I hadn't actually said those words to my friend.  What I had said was, "I miss you."  But it may as well have been "I love you."  That's what lay behind it.  And I fear it showed.

This was an encounter with a friend.  But I had to make it happen.  I know where she works.  We used to see each other frequently, but she and her husband quit frequenting the place where we saw each other most -- church.  Just like that.  One week they were there, the next they were gone.  Too busy.  Have a big project they're working on.  No time for church.  No time for friends.  Gone.  For four solid months.

I do not have the gift of telephoning.  It's not as though I don't like to talk on the telephone.  I'm fine with it.  I just don't like making calls.  They don't go well for me.  I consistently interrupt more important activities rather than catching people at a convenient time.  I'm the one who calls your cell just as you get to the front of the checkout line and need to interact with the clerk.  So I generally don't call people.  However, I do somehow have the knack of encounters.  The encounter at hand was at the workplace,  I walked in just as my friend walked out of an inner room and had a few minutes to chat before being called to another task.  She wouldn't have had to be there.  Her schedule isn't predictable.  She might have been dreadfully busy or out of sight.  It was a serendipitous encounter.  My days often bring me that sort of "luck."  But my gift of encounters has failed me in respect to these particular friends the entire summer.  It has been one of near misses other than when I have forced encounters by showing up at their project.

And I have missed them.  Because I love them.  We have been friends.  Good friends.  We have been part of a group that has camped together, hiked together, even vacationed together.  They have made a tremendous contribution to who I am.  I love how much better I am for knowing them.  Now they seem to have simply walked away from our friendship.

So many choices in how to respond.  The church would have me woo them back.  Call them.  Send them cards and letters.  Invite them to my home.  Run the border of harassment in the name of Jesus.

I could treat them as they are treating me.  If they no longer want to be our friends, so be it!  It's not as though I'm so needy I have to run after them and beg them to come back into my life.  Right?  I have other friends.  Right?

Somehow letting them go but continuing to tell them I love them every time I see them doesn't fit any prescribed model.  I feel like it makes me look pathetic and weak.

The thing is, it's authentic.  I can let them go.  Our attachment is not so strong that I can't live without them.  I've done so for going on five months now without plunging into a deep depression or anything.  They aren't my all-in-all.  They're simply friends.  But I miss them.  I miss the good times we had together when our children were teenagers and strengthened our bond with their own friendship.  I miss what they bring to my life.  In short, I love them.

"God must be God, and love must be enough."  But how stupid it is to tell people who obviously no longer want or need you in their lives that you love them.  It's simply asking for further rejection.  How can such pathetic love have any power in it?

Is love enough?  Is it "stupid" to display unrequited love?

Maybe the better question is:  Is authenticity worth the pain of rejection when it puts unrequited love on display?

I choose to love.  I choose authenticity.  Even when it means telling people who have walked away from me that I still love them.  Even when my failure to pursue them beyond what chance encounters may come my way might make my words seem empty.   Hopefully, they aren't offended by my words simply because they don't come with cards and letters and phone calls.  Hopefully, they know they are far from out of mind simply because they're out of sight.

Several years ago an emotionally needy person decided I was the answer to her neediness.  In light of how little value has been placed on my friendship over the years, I found her confidence in the sufficiency of it a bit amusing.  I could give her a list of references to vouch for how mistaken she was in that confidence.  It's usually not all that surprising to me when people figure out they can do better and walk away.  But the friends who have done so recently seemed to actually like me for longer than most in spite of knowing me better than most.  I can go on without them.  It's not as though I haven't been through this before.  But I do value them highly and can't help but let it show on the rare occasion when I see them.  I hope they are doing well.  I hope they are finding fulfilling relationships.  I hope they haven't left God behind in leaving the church behind.  I hope life is wonderful for them.  Because I love them.  Still.  And I may as well say it.  Because it's true.