Loving Someone Who Doesn't7:30 AM
It hurt to watch the walking away.
There wasn't any drama about it: I had other friends, we didn't fight, it wasn't the end of the world. But a friend was a friend. We used to be great friends. Best friends, in a way. We got along, we listened, we talked, we cared about each other. Until one day...we didn't. And we weren't. And I didn't know what I did wrong. And suddenly hanging out was like scraping nails across the chalkboard, pulling teeth, swimming in the Arctic: barely tolerable, mostly painful and dangerous to one's health. No longer was my friend interested in me or excited to see me. We didn't talk anymore. It was trying to be best buds with a stranger at Walmart.
It's hard to not recognize someone you know backwards and forwards.
There's much sympathy for the Echo who pines after her Narcissus - the girl who stands in a corner and falls in love with guys she doesn't know. We comfort her after she bawls into a hundred Kleenexes upon finding her true unknown love has a girlfriend, after all. There's books and blogposts written for guys whose girlfriends give up on them or girls who were led on and never got anywhere. We understand the broken heart of romance, if but a little.
But when it comes to the broken heart of friendship, it's another thing entirely. It's such a commonplace devastation that we let open wounds run until we bleed dry of affection or the gash scars jaggedly. Best friends through elementary school then total indifference in high school. Obsessive pen pals to a letter once in a blue moon. Promising to keep in touch with that amazing friend at camp and never caring if she writes you a week later. It happens with the acquaintance you didn't really like in the first place and the best friend who was going to live at your house for every summer, practically. When did forever get so short?
I've struggled with this. I've struggled with the seeming lie that love is forever, when marriage after friendship after relationship proved otherwise. I've struggled with peeling away the broken parts from friends-no-longer. Shaking the dust off my feet. Moving on. I've struggled with realizing that I do the same thing: develop inexplicable boredom that drifts me away from friends who were once closer than a heartbeat. One starts to think the country songs are somewhat true.
It all comes down to this awkward position everyone gets to sometime in his life: loving someone who doesn't. You can try to patch the friendship and watch your care and effort be like brine on blood. You might patch the relationship and then watch the cover-up fall to pieces. You can walk around half-dead to the world for a few weeks and hate the guts of any new friends who "stole" your old friend away.
That, or uncontrollably sob into your pillow.
You can hate, envy, plot, seethe, bawl, sink, trip, die...or you can love.
It's bitter, to watch someone you love love someone else - someone else who's not you. It's hard to face life friendless next to the former "best friend." It's difficult to categorize the relationship - was it a lie in the first place? was it worth it? was I wrong?
Sometimes, the worst is being just casual buddies. A good all-out brawl seems better - at least you're not left hanging about why she doesn't care about you anymore. But this status of second-class friend, if-I-come-to-the-end-of-my-line backup - I don't know if I want to cry or scream. (Maybe both.)
But no one can live this way, bottled up with brokenness. After I had my jealousy and my cry, I figured I better learn how to deal with this pretty quick. Even though I'd been hurt, I still loved my friend. And I wanted to keep loving my friend, even if my friend didn't want to keep loving me. I couldn't settle for being the enemy of someone I cared about, someone who was special, someone who'd thought I was special.
Loving someone who doesn't - was that even possible? But I think the definition of love - that selfless sort we all wish we had - isn't a spark between a couple or an understanding between two friends. It starts with the one-sided decision to put the other before the self. Standing alone, love can still be effective. Because it's not about me. And if I genuinely cared about my friend - oh, I could burn up with anger at the injustice of it all, but that would destroy both of us.
I'm learning to love the one-way-street love, even if my affection isn't returned, even if I can barely tolerate the person, even if that person can barely tolerate me. It's the greatest commandment: love.
And love isn't really even about the other person, either - not ultimately, anyway. It's about loving Christ first and foremost, and if anyone loved, He did. If anyone's love was rejected, His was. He commands that same love from us (Hosea 3:1; Luke 6:32; John 13:34). He gives that same love to us.
The best thing I can do for someone is to push them toward the love of Christ. Perhaps in that short window of friendship, I did so. I don't know if I did, but I hope so, and if I did, then that friendship was worth it. It's not about me or even our friendship, per se. Even if it ended for me, I can still love from a distance - pray - speak a kind word - not put up obligations and ultimatums in order to "win me back."
Human interaction is ridiculously complex, uncertain terrain. One's bound to get bumps and bruises. It's a fact of life: friends leave me, I leave them, we grow, we change, we grieve, we try our best. I thank God for the friends (you know who you are) who've let me push them away while I needed to be alone, who didn't hate me when I couldn't love, who gave me everything when I could give nothing. It hurts me to know how many I have hurt in those growth spurts and tangles of life. I pray I get the chance to practice the same love they perfected.
I hope to be the type of person who loves, always, so that if a former friend came back after twenty years (or two weeks), there still would be a special place reserved, just for her.