Originally posted at SheLoves Magazine.
Have you ever met a new person and been alarmed by how kindred they feel even though they are complete strangers?
This is the way of so many friendships in SheLoves, so I know somewhere someone is nodding. It’s the way of so many friendships in my world. I might just fall in love with every person I ever meet ever (yes, two evers). I am so quick to share deeply and make connections.
Unfortunately, I am also just a wee bit over-enthusiastic and I tend to over-share and over-trust and over over over. Then, when the realness of me and the realness of the other person come out, I find I’m a too-soon budding flower on the only warm day in early March—about to get frozen by the rest of winter to come.
I cannot tell you the embarrassingly great number of times I have done this to myself.
Fast relationships can totally work and be wonderful. (Ask Idelette about getting to know her husband, Scott, sometime.) But there’s something terrifyingly unique about exposing your heart and finding out it was probably not in your best interest.
When I’m being appropriately guarded I remind myself to say, “Hi, my name is Sarah and I like sushi and the color green and all things about September.” Unfortunately, just as often I start with way-too-raw words, “Hi, my name is Sarah and my parents were emotionally abusive and I want someone to tell me I’m smart and funny.”
The problem with the raw-and-open-me is that genuine, loving people reply with, “Oh Sarah I am so sorry about that, please let me hug you and tell you that you’re smart and funny.” And I’m hooked. I tell them we should work on a project together. I tell them I want to be close. And sometime afterward when we’ve been friends for a bit, we find we are not so similar and maybe our personalities are not so well-matched. We try to pull apart, but we’ve already shared so much that we hang on tighter. And the tension weighs heavy like canoeing upstream.
And I have done this to myself and to others a few too many times. And, yes, I see the irony in being vulnerable right here on these pages, but my SheLoves sisterhood has proved itself safe and careful with my porcelain heart. And Mama Bear Helen and Fearless Leader Idelette and Theologian Kelley will go to battle for me and I know it. So, right now I am home and safe.
Bethany and I attended the Festival of Faith & Writing together this past weekend. She kindly opened her home to a couple strangers from Washington state to stay in the suburbs of Chicago on a large pull-out couch in a cozy apartment full of art. She generously fed us a home-cooked meal and drove the three hours to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the conference.
And like I do, I promptly fell in love with her generous heart and her sarcastic smile. And then I started to worry a little. I tried to keep things to myself, but this woman who spoke so openly and bravely about grief and love and disenchanted faith was just too good to resist.
Over the course of five days I found myself openly sharing even the darkest most obscure parts of me. We wept together over beauty and sadness and also because laughter sometimes has to drip from your eyes. We told funny stories and sad stories and hopeful stories. We swapped knowing glances and we teased. We talked about body insecurities as we stood together wearing swimsuits.
And my heart ached with worry that maybe I was in too deep and maybe this was a flash-in-the-pan friendship.
So I watched.
You know what I saw? I saw Bethany being generous with others. I saw her choosing to go along with another person’s agenda and laying her own aside for a while. I saw her smiling and commiserating with strangers. And I saw something so very familiar in her. I didn’t see myself in Bethany, I saw my very good friend Emily. Emily and I have built a friendship over four years and we like each other more than I thought was humanly possible. When I saw the kinship in Bethany that I see when I am with Emily, I felt relief.
And then when Bethany graciously and quietly reciprocated, I felt the hope that courses through my veins at every SheLoves editorial meeting I’ve ever attended. That was the moment when I knew—this is holy ground.