Last year I moved 2000 miles away from most everything that was dear and familiar to me. I didn’t know a blessed soul and the nearest friend was over 1000 miles away. To call me lonely would be putting it lightly. As a stay-at-home mom without a facebook account, I quickly realized my quest for new friends needed to be intentional and proactive … qualities I don’t feel naturally gifted in. Over this past year of making new friends and keeping up with friends from home, I have clearly seen my shortcomings as a friend. While wrestling with these shortcomings, I’ve frequently thought of my college mentor, Lisa, as an authentic model of friendship and hospitality.
I met Lisa as I began my senior year in college. She just moved into the dorm as its resident director, and I just moved in as a resident assistant. Growing up in the church, neat and tidy leadership roles and friendships defined my social experience and Lisa was about to blow my mind.
When the five of us RA’s gathered in Lisa’s apartment, she candidly told us about her life including the polished areas and the experiences most of us gladly omit. Lisa wanted us to truly know one another and she proactively laid herself down as the model of honesty. Lisa shared her life with discernment and selectivity, and she chose to bring us into an inner circle of friendship.
As a weekly excersise, Lisa asked us to share about the good, bad, and ugly from our lives. The idea of the “good, bad and ugly” may seem cliché to some, but to our little group, it was a life-giving exercise. I feel comfortable sharing with others about the blessings (good) or hardships (bad) of my life, but talking about my mess (the ugly) makes me squirm in my chair. The ugly parts are things we would rather not share … things we feel ashamed of or by … things that reflect poorly on ourselves. Things like sexual sin, yelling at family, jealousy of a friend, doubts about God. I believe each of us yearns to know there is someone who will hear our “ugly” and accept us just the same. Lisa was that person to me. Each week we received the opportunity to share the “ugly” of our lives in safety.
Lisa didn’t hide behind artificial smiles if she felt sad, mad, or grumpy, but she invited us into her life and home during less-than-perfect moments. Lisa did not hide her humanity and flaws, but was an example of loving God and others through the good, the bad, and the ugly of her life. Because Lisa brought us into the beautiful and hard parts of her life, we felt safe to share our own joys and struggles.
Lisa asked how our hearts were, and she wanted to hear the answer. She wanted to feel our joys and share in our struggles. She loved each of us goofy college girls, and we knew it. We knew it through her transparency. We knew it in the early morning cups of tea. We knew it in the late night games of Nertz. We knew it by the endearing nicknames she gave us. We were loved, and love transforms.
In my own relationships I’ve noticed my tendency to polish and shine messy areas of my life out of insecurity and pride, but that habit discourages lasting and meaningful friendship. Through examples such as Lisa, I have seen and experienced the beauty and freedom of life-giving friendship and it inspires and challenges me to be more transparent. I want to care more about loving others than about the fear of rejection. I want to invite a chosen few into my mess and my joys and in return give them a safe place to share their life and struggles. I want to approach friendship and mentoring as two-way road filled with intentional serving and receiving. I want to love others in my life and home not in spite of my literal and figurative mess, but because of it. I want to live out my humanity and Christianity with others through the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to be a Lisa someday.
(This post is dedicated to my lovely friend and mentor. Happy birthday Lisa, you’re the best. Love, Autumn Dancer)