Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Gift of Friendship

Since Wes and I have been married, we haven't really had many good & close friends. To be quite honest, we haven't had too many friends period. We had been good friends with the pastor and his wife at our home church until Wes had been accepted at Southern when they stopped talking to us. Come to find out, the pastor was afraid Wes would come back to try and take over the church (since the church was co-founded by his family) even though we had no plans to move back to Chicago. When we moved to Louisville, we thought we'd finally be able to develop some real friendships. After all, we had been told during orientation that these would be the friendships that would last a lifetime. Instead, we were met with incredible feelings of loneliness and some days I would sit at home and cry. I remember going to a cookout our stairwell (the apartment housing sections on campus were commonly referred to as stairwells) was having and two of the women were discussing wanting to see a particular movie. Since I, too, was interested in the movie, I thought it was a great opportunity to join in the conversation and get to know them some more. I also thought that maybe I could invite them out to a girls night out to see the movie. As soon as I joined the conversation, one of the women literally said to me "sorry, we're not interested in that movie." She looked at the other woman, and both walked away. I told Wes I was just going back to our apartment, where I cried my heart out.

We have a real heart for those who have struggled or are struggling with sexual sin. Wes had his own battles with pornography addiction that had once rattled our own marriage and now we just feel so compelled to reach out to those who are going through that. It's never been an area of ministry we keep quiet about, we're very open about our testimony at how God has pulled us through. However, we're very aware that our desires to help those in such a "taboo" subject has made it difficult for us to develop friendships. No, this is not an assumption (and certainly not for lack of trying to develop friendships)...we've actually been told this by people who said they were uncomfortable being around us because of what we wanted to do. Unfortunately, a lot of this came from our former church. I could probably list a laundry load of things that just tore us down piece by piece, but even thinking about it brings me to tears remembering how lonely and desperate we were for real friendships. And I can't imagine that listing it all out for people to read would really be edifying to anyone.

I also felt so bad for Wes, who had tried repeatedly to get to know the men and to develop an accountability relationship with someone, only to be shot down time and time again. He craved that intimacy as much as I did. There did come a point where there was a final straw and we left the church. We went church hunting for several months after that when we returned to a small church we had visited over a year prior. And that is where we have been since. We needed a place to heal, and we found it.

Tonight we had a cookout at our pastor's house. I took a few moments to just watch people without really listening to any conversations...and I just thought to myself how much I'm going to miss everyone when we move....I'm just so afraid we'll move and find ourselves in the same situation. I still am relearning how to open myself up again even though I may sometimes seem that I'm very open. We still sometimes find it hard to extend a simple lunch invitation because of the fear of being told once again "we're not comfortable being with you." But tonight, I looked all around me and laughed with them, chatted with them, told stories with them, ate with them, swam with them...and just felt incredible love for all of them. And here I am, typing while crying, thinking to myself that God, in His infinite love for me & Wes, has been faithful and put people in our lives who are truly our friends. They have never looked at us funny, they have never said an unkind word to us, they have called to see how we are, they cried with us when we suffered through our adoption loss, they ask us to eat pizza with them.... They have done things and said things to us that perhaps may seem to them as an every day "of course you would say that to someone" type of thing with a friend, but for us, mean everything because of how much we have craved to hear it. I don't know that any of them realize how much they have meant to us. I don't know how many of them realize how sad it makes us to know that we'll be leaving them in a year.

I sit here just so amazed and grateful at how God has worked in our lives once again. When we were lonely and felt we couldn't bear the hurt any more, He led us to a place where we have found healing and love and acceptance. We're not just member numbers 484 & 485, we are Wes & Mary King. We are part of the church family, part of the body of Christ...a couple with friends.

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