The ones where I can be my whole, broken, messy, crazy, sarcastic self and still be loved by those around me.
It's a rare and beautiful gift that we do not give each other nearly enough. I have a husband who embraces my whole self....never once complained about a trait of mine past my tendency to leave a tea bag in the sink. I have a group of friends that not only loves me as I am, but encourages me to be more me somehow.
In both of these cases there is an earnest two way desire for acceptance that leads to flourishing. I love both my husband and my friends as they are, despite the things that make us different. They are my happy place and the home of most of those moments in life where no pretending is needed. We all come together and dump our junk into one pile. We become us and love comes there to grow.
The thing about this kind of gift is that once you have it, you always want more. You cling to it like life itself and you never want to go back to a world without it. The five years we lived in Charlottesville were very hard years on us. Our marriage was pretty good, but new and still very much establishing itself. It turned out to be a huge blessing that we were simply alone with one another for those years because they formed an amazing foundation for us.
Friends during this time were almost non-existent. With two very little ones and a husband who worked long overnight hours, friendship was a luxury I didn't see very often. It was hard and lonely. But God used it. I never knew what it was like to hate something so much yet tuck it into my heart for safe keeping.
Fast forward to today. The memories of those lonely years could not be more different than our today. We are saturated with people who love us immensely as we are. We've become spoiled on the fruits of friendship. But can I tell you a secret?
It doesn't just happen. The photo above could have easily never happened. There was a crux for us. A place where we all began to wander off after a huge tragedy. We were all hurting and scared and angry and not sure where to turn.
Instead of walking off...we grabbed onto one another. There were times where I literally felt God nudge me to "grab that one" and say "you're coming with us". We made time to be together. We did the healing work of being vulnerable and open together. We cried and laughed and screamed profanity together when needed. We came together and dumped our hearts out.
And the thing that happened there...in that pile of our hearts? We became knitted together. One heart stitched into the next because we chose to pick up the needles and do the work. These (and many not in this photo) are women that I do not know how I would live without, even my husband would testify to that.
We chose, in a time of fire, to be gilded together instead of melted separately. We chose the work. We chose each other.
And that's what all good relationships come down to. Choosing each other. Above preferences, above being right, above offense, above all other things...choosing one another is it. It's the thing. It's what Jesus is all about.
When we choose each other we get to be like Jesus, reaching out and saying "You're coming with us".
And p.s. While you are here anyway...enter to win $100 just by leaving a comment on my Cetaphil post!