The Underbelly of 2022
2022 has been such a blessing for me. I’ve paid off a student loan and purchased a home. I’ve written several poems, blogs, and short stories. I’ve started several projects and have come close to finishing yet another book. I’ve seen many faces and introduced myself to several newborns in the family. Despite its many struggles, I have remained in peace more often than sorrow. The sorrows of this year, however, have had a concerning, perplexing trend. What has brought me sorrow this year is the departure of three best friends.
January was the beginning of the sorrow. One of my best friends, my uncle, found out that he had stage four cancer. It was the kind of news that took my breath away as I cautiously hoped he’d overcome. It was also the kind of news that made me reflect on my experiences and treatment of him. Had I been there enough? Had I made him laugh enough? Had I repaid his kindness enough? In the time of new resolutions and hopes for a solid year, I was hit in the gut and forced into many prayers, worries, and “What will You decide, Lord? Will You call my uncle home?”
I am not the kind of person that shies away from harsh truths. It was only five years ago that I had lost a friend to cancer and more than a decade since my grandmother lost her battle to cancer. You’d think those experiences prepared me for the next battle, but I spent my days baffled, unsure, and lost. Those experiences only taught me that hope against God’s will leaves you sickened when His will manifests into a going away party. I began to prepare myself for the worst and the Lord hadn’t even told me His plans.
Three weeks later, in February, I had an argument with my female best friend. We didn’t agree on how we viewed and interacted in our friendship. So, I did what I always do and opened my mouth to the fullest and accepted all consequences from the words spoken. I told her all my feelings, and I do mean all. Her response was to cut me off and never speak to me again. I cried for a week. She didn’t even wish me happy birthday, which was not long after that argument.
A month later, after my first fallout, I had another argument with one of my male best friends. What I thought was a light-hearted, jabbing joke turned into an attack and confusion. He spoke negatively of my character and confessed he was done being my friend. We had been having arguments for a few months. I was trying to figure out the source of his issue with me to see if it was me or him, but he wasn’t the type to let you in that deep. Already in pain from the previous broken friendship, I didn’t have the urge to fight for him. Thus, another friendship was ended. This was barely a week after my birthday.
By March, not even a quarter into the new year, I had one friend battling cancer and two friends, who accounted for 50% percent of my social time, gone. These were the people I leaned on the heaviest when I needed wisdom, a listening ear, love, and company. I thought we had the type of friendships that would last a lifetime, through many ups and downs, but I was being proven wrong in the worst ways.
Months passed. I leaned heavily on my family and my remaining best friends for fellowship. I knew isolation would eventually feel like loneliness, and I had spent too much time fighting to enjoy my own company to let these departures return me to that state. I committed myself to those who committed themselves to me, and it was fine… but I was still longing for my friends.
I continued to pray for them. I continued to ask God for opportunities to reconcile. I drove by their homes and prayed for them in the parking lots. I replayed the videos I had of them from time to time. I thought of them often. However, nothing equated to actually having them in my life. The coping was cheap filler for new voids I didn’t expect to have. I felt like I couldn’t reach out to them, but I desperately needed to reach out to them. They were my life.
I found myself losing interest in wanting to go out. It wasn’t the same by myself. I socially drank less. I ate out less. I passed on events. Too many friends had kids and spouses. Others lived far away or worked different schedules. All that remained were my mother and one other best friend. They were the only two I could call on a whim and say, “Hey, you want to go see such and such or eat at here and there?”
In a city of four million, I see, maybe, eighty people more than once a year. Fifty of that eighty are coworkers who I never see outside of work. Thirty people I know and love see me more than once a year. Outside of family, kids and all, that list drops to less than ten. Out of that ten, maybe five have seen me more than two or three times this year. I spent most of my personal time with three people, and two of those three people had excommunicated me by March.
With eight billion people on this earth, we have convinced ourselves that people are replaceable. We think we can cut people out of our lives at any time and do so without consequence. I had believed this strongly, only committing to those who committed to me, as I stated. This year was making me challenge that belief.
There are not eight billion people on this earth that can bring out a love and loyalty in me that my best friends do. I will not likely meet even twenty more people who can make me respond the way they do. I make time for them, encourage them, love them, and listen to them. I trust and allow them to guide me, correct me, tell me what I need to hear, and live my life with them. They know my darkest days and my brightest celebrations. That kind of friendship cannot be genuinely crafted over and over again with an introvert. It takes time, and the older I get, the less time and patience I have.
Sometimes, it felt like God was isolating me. When I wasn’t at work, I was at my mother’s house, unknowingly looking for my first home purchase. I rarely went out, and if I did, it was to see someone I took too long to visit, my family, or the one other best friend I saw the most. God was peeling away those I no longer needed to make room for those I did. At least, that’s how many people use God to justify their lack of integrity in fighting for their friends.
Some friends told me to reconcile, and others told me to leave the friendships in the past and move on. The more I heard “move on” the more I hated life. What kind of sadistic game is it to bring such wonderful people into your life just to become estranged because of petty arguments? We hadn’t done physical harm to one another. We hadn’t cursed each other out. We never stole from one another, cheated with each other’s lovers, lied to each other, or had been reviling to each other. We just had a disagreement about how we handled things. What was there to “move on” from?
Two years ago, I had moved on from the church I had the most church friends at. I grew tired of seeing elders, worship leaders, and pastors leaving month after month. My heart was broken each time I stepped inside the building and realized the faces I had grown accustomed to seeing every Sunday no longer fill the seats they once filled. It truly was a church home for me. To see my home emptied of my loved ones hurt me deeply to where I still haven’t found a new church home today, three years later.
Promises of staying connected faltered and I was left with a phone as dry as a throat after vomiting up all of last night’s liquor. We stopped hanging out, stopped calling, and eventually stopped texting. We don’t even interact on each other’s social media pages anymore. It drudged a hatred in me that I still don’t know how to process.
I began to loathe friendships. What was the point of making friends if they’d only leave you one day? The people I hung out with the most would be the friends of strangers who would inform me that they passed away without any invitation to their funeral. I’ve already experienced the “did you hear what’s his and her name passed away?” People I used to count on just gone.
I began to question would heaven be like earth in that I’d have my circle of friends that I’d still grow apart from. How can a relationship with God be everlasting if we are not creatures who can even be lasting friends? I had a new crisis of faith in humanity and I have no idea how to cope with it. The only people who would remain in my life for my whole life would be my family? Is that sad? Is that a blessing? The only permanent friends I could obtain had to be tied to me by our parents? I had to be born into my friendships? I could not make lasting friendships in my own strength?
I began to look at my remaining friends and wonder if there was a figurative expiration date above their heads. Would a wife remove him from my close friends? Would she, too, travel to a far away city and forget about me? Who was here to stay? My mom? My brother and sister? Was that it?
The wearier I became of the subject, the less I interacted with people. I made no new friends, and I let the time between visits increase with those who remained nearest to me. Even at work, I felt my social interaction decrease as I sat at my desk and inserted my headphones to let music carry me for eight to sixteen hours. What was the point of conversation? None of you are here for me outside of this place and I am not there for you either. Why bother talking? Let’s just get our work done and go home.
Halfway through the year and the guys would tell me, “Your boy misses you.” I missed him, too, but what kind of friend says the things he said and walks away like the friendship we developed for years meant nothing? Why did I have to be the bigger person again? Why was the responsibility upon me to restore the friendship? I didn’t end it. I just didn’t fight for it.
The Lord asked me, “What if I had become too tired of being the bigger person? Would the cross have come? Would I have reconciled all people to Myself? Would I hear your prayers or entertain your desires?”
He asked me His desires, and I couldn’t help but remember 2nd Corinthians 5:16-21. Specifically, I remembered: God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. I also remembered the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. Of all the friends I had collected, I had lost some very dear to me. I desperately wanted them back.
Still, a counteracting voice remained. My friends left me. I did not leave them. Why should I pursue them? They hurt me. Why should I give them another chance? What’s to stop them from doing this again? Was it worth it?
The Lord responded, “Did you not hurt Me? Were you not responsible for the sins I embodied on the cross? Did you not leave Me to pursue life without Me? Did I not still go on the cross? Did I not still reconcile you to Me? Did I not fight for My friend?”
I remembered how God reconciled Moses after murdered a person and after he disobeyed God and struck the rock. I remembered how Jehovah restored King David after David had his friend killed in battle so that he would not live to see his wife impregnated by his friend. I remembered Peter, who was reconciled to Jesus after denying he affiliated with Him on three separate occasions. I remembered Eve, whom God reconciled with after the Garden of Eden with the birth of Seth. I remembered Sarah, who laughed at God and Job’s wife, who said “Curse God and die.” Both women still gave birth to the blessings God had for them. The entire Bible is filled with people who hurt God, humanity’s best friend, and yet He still reconciled as many as He could back into relationship.
Leaving people cut off started to appeal less. It’s not that I wanted to reconcile with everyone, as certain rekindling would lead to my destruction. I am not God, and I cannot reconcile all people to myself. However, there are a few who are worth the effort. The love we had for one another will always be greater than the hurt we caused one another or the distance we put between us. Thus, I began my journey to reconciliation.
My uncle beat cancer. He was given the victory and began the process of healing. I visited with him and spoke encouraging words over him. Though it was not a reconcile, it was one of the first friendships in jeopardy for this year, and the only friendship in jeopardy because of death. To hear the Lord saved him was encouraging, and I was thrilled to have more time to spend with him. It gave me an appreciation for life and friendship that motivated me to entertain reconciling with those far off.
My homeboy, luckily, was a part of a group of guys. When one of the guys was coming into town, he kept encouraging us to meet and reconcile. At that point, I had no problem with the idea. The Lord had set me on the path. My homeboy was a major portion of my social life and the void he left behind was far too great and irreplaceable even if the void was small. No one could take his place. I felt the love we shared would be exponentially greater than the pain we had caused each other, so I agreed.
Four months after we had fallen out, we reconciled. We apologized over a meal, with another best friend as a mediator, and admitted we loved each other too much to let our grievances keep us a part. There were hugs, shots, and laughs. We were mutually pleased that the issues were getting resolved.
Oddly enough, this is one of the first reconciles outside of God that I’ve experienced in my lifetime. I wasn’t completely sure how to respond. It wasn’t like we could ignore what had happened, but we had to move on without being reserved with one another. We had to be active, intentional participants in reconciliation. We began meeting up again to watch football and talk without mediators. It took a while, but we became close friends again, and we learned how to better deal with ourselves and each other.
Oftentimes, when you are on the right path, life, satan, the devil, or whatever you want to call it, starts to fight with you. While I was learning how to walk in one reconciled friendship, another good friend fell out with me. She was my best work friend. We used to speak when we walked through the door and talk throughout the day, but the stresses of the job overwhelmed us, and I was still putting on my headphones to make it through the day in peace.
After a while, she stopped talking as much and started sitting off by herself, listening to music. The job we occupied was stressful, and the hours were many, so I let her cope in the way she deemed best. However, as time went on, our conversations shortened.
Since then, we have not spoken outside of the times we needed help to work. There are no personal conversations, despite her being the one I turned to the most when my other friendships were failing. There was no big argument like the others, nor was there any indication that a fallout was happening. I wouldn’t have even noticed if I had not observed how she talked to others in comparison to how she talked to me. Just as one friend came back, another left.
Admittedly, the pettiness, pride, and resentment in me rose again. I asked myself what was the true point of reconciliation. People in my life were removing themselves. Why should I go after this lost sheep? Should I reconcile with someone who has not stated their issue with me?
The Lord asked, “Was repentance too much for reconciliation between you and I? Should you not make sure that you are free of guilt before rendering judgment on your friendships? If you had her back, would you be grateful?”
I’ve struggled with these questions for a month now. We are near the end of 2022, as in December, and I have not reconciled with my two friends. They have yet to return, and one has not even been given the option. I miss my friends. I miss the warmth, joy, and light they brought into my life.
If I had to be honest, I would be grateful for their return. There are only a small handful of people I would hate to have back in my life, and that’s only if they didn’t grow and change for the better. Though there are few people who bring out a love, hope, and adoration in me, there are significantly less that I grow to despise as people. I do not like to hate. I like to love. Just as God would rather magnify His love for His friends than magnify the sin that died on the cross with Him.
The downside of 2022 could easily become the revival of 2023. As for now, I have two more friends to reconcile with. One I have not seen or spoken to in ten, long months. The other I see every week and have not even asked what led her to cut me off. Each day without their friendship is pain. It is the kind of bitterness that makes the joy of purchasing a home and paying off a student loan bland.
God didn’t create me to buy houses. He did not bless me to pay off debts. As I’ve walked with Him, I have realized life has always been about the people, never the things, and definitely not the money. He wants me to love on people, and I love loving on people.
To my friend from February, you are loved. You are missed. I long for your face to grace my eyes and your words to touch my heart. You are literally the best female friend I’ve ever had, and it is devastating not to be able to continue living life with you. I hope all is well with you and yours. I hope you are obtaining the things you’ve longed for. I am encouraged in my thoughts of you. I figure we will reconcile in due time. I can only pray that it is not much longer.
To my friend from work, you are loved. Whatever I have done to cause you to distance yourself, I hope you can forgive me and know that you can come to me and I will willingly apologize for my treachery. I pray that the burdens lighten for the both of us, that hope returns to our occupation, and that we reconcile our differences and share our lives with each other again. Know that I owe you three lunches now and am ready to pay and tell you why I want to bless you three times.
Let this be the message: you are stronger than the things that separate you. God does not magnify sin above salvation. God does not prefer punishment over healing. God chooses to love rather than hate. Christ chooses to pursue His friends rather than distance Himself from them.
Not every relationship is worth reconciliation. Reconcile with the wrong one and your life could be taken. Be wise in your decision making. Everyone is not your friend, and everyone does not deserve to be your friend. Ask God for guidance on who to retain and who to refrain from. Remember that if your memories are filled with much pain, you were likely removed from an enemy and not a friend.
To those who wish to reconcile with me, I am open. As my father above, I wish to reconcile all people to me. Though, some of you will take longer than others and require more work. If I have done something to make you not want to deal with me, you are free to tell me. I am not so prideful to think I am above hurting others or learning from those I hurt. I am being perfected by Christ; I am not currently perfect.
Some of you will read this and think of the person you don’t want to reconcile with. I encourage you to look at the facts and not the feelings. Less than one percent of earth’s population will ever make you love the way they did. Was the fallout ever supposed to happen? Were you supposed to give up so easily? Should you leave that wound open? I could’ve lost four major friends this year. Instead, only two remain aloof.
Let us hold onto the ones we love. Let us heal from our pains. Let us reconcile with our brethren and sisterhood. The love of God fill you, bless you, and keep you.