Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wearing Ones Guilt Like a Bag of Cement

I have a friend (or had one-- you decide) who would feel so guilty about not reciprocating my gestures of friendship, that she'd 'hide' from me. And then feel guilty some more.

Oh my. We'd have the best times ever when we'd get together two or three times yearly. We'd laugh and relax and watch movies in our basement or go out to eat or share lunch with our husbands or visit at outdoor church functions. We had much in common. But then Life would get in the way, especially for her since she has a real job, and too, she lives a distance away over the New York state thruway, the stretch which makes me oh-so-nervous. So always there were obstacles to our getting together, but as I said, when we did, we both agreed it was grand. Simply grand.

Once a couple years passed that we didn't see each other but I wrote letters, mailed a couple gifts and she called me sometimes and sent Christmas cards. More time passed then her husband called and asked if he could bring 'Sarah' over to our house as a surprise because he knew she'd been missing me, but she was imagining I was upset with her because she'd allowed our friendship to go stale. Silent, even.

So he brought her over and Sarah was so happy her husband had 'pushed' her into this visit. And after I assured her that I'd never been mad at her, we proceeded in having the sweetest fellowship ever. Well, except that she reiterated her list of all the things in this life which make her feel guilty.

Sarah had a long list. It wasn't a list with big-time sins--she's robbed no banks nor committed any murders and has never, ever even thought about straying from her marriage. No, not things like that, but rather, she still felt guilty that, when her daughter was young, she prayed she'd be popular because, Sarah, herself, had struggled with her own unpopularity in high school. Her daughter did indeed become popular, a fact Sarah regrets because she believes her daughter's popularity was the source of all her hardships in high school and ever since. With every mistake her daughter makes, Sarah blames herself for that long ago prayer.

That's the kind of guilt I mean, the kind which rides around upon your head like a heavy, uncomfortable bag of dry cement, veering you into a ditch to the left, a ditch to the right due to great imbalance. And slowing down every single journey you take.

Since moving to this farm we live even farther from Sarah and her husband and though I've sent a few cards and notes I've not heard back from my friend for at least 5 years, perhaps more. I've emailed her --unanswered, all. Sarah, most likely, has slipped back into thinking I'm mad at her, when actually, I'm just sad. Sad that, for the 17 years I've known her, Sarah's life seems to go from one sad happening to another, from one guilty ditch to another, seldom varying from the well-worn veering path where condemnation leads her.

And today if you, too, are walking that same path, I hope you will remind Sarah (and yourself) that Jesus died to carry all that guilt away. And the conviction He now brings is wrapped inside a Love so great, a burden so light, that there are never, ever any bags of dry cement within His outstretched hands. There's only guidance, light and freedom and a straight path to joy.


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"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." ... Matthew 11:29, 30

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Need a laugh today? Read this. (I'd love to know if it made you smile.)

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"... do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength..." ... Nehemiah 8:10

To everything, there is a season-- even friendship.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

This post is so timely for me.
I met Lea when I started working over twenty-five years ago. We because good friends, and spent a lot of time together. She got very ill, at one point, and I was at the hospital as often as I could be, and helped her through a crisis. We continued to be good friends, but when she quit working, I saw less of her, and our paths seemed to go in different directions. Still, we would have lunch, or breakfast together once a month. Then, a year ago, she seemed to disappear from the face of the earth. I called dozens of times, and got no answer. One day, I ran into her at a store, but got a "chilly" reception. I called her, and she talked to me, but seemed confused.
Then, a couple weeks later, she called me and seemed fine. I called her two weeks ago, to ask her to have breakfast with me, and her husband said, "She died last night". I was so shocked, and so upset. Her husband said that she had been sick and didn't want anyone to see her, or know. I feel empty, and somewhat angry that she felt that she should suffer alone. I would have liked to have a chance to help her through a difficult time, and to say goodbye.
We will never be able to understand why people make the choices they make, but I guess they think they have reasons for making the choices they make. Still it is hard to accept that our friendships have to end and that we feel "shut out" of the process.
I feel guilty that I wasn't there for Lea, but it wasn't a choice I made.
We can reach out, but sometimes we will be rejected.

Debra said...

Oh Anon., I'm so sorry you lost your friend in this way. My condolences go out to you. It *is* hard accepting others' choices, especially without labeling them as right or wrong. I'm sure, though, that your friend appreciated that you reached out to her even though she didn't let you know. Thank-you for sharing your story. Blessings, Debra

Laura said...

Anon - I'm so sorry that you lost your friend!

Both you and Debra have made me think about some long-time friends that I've been wondering about the past few years. I call, write, attempt to get together, etc. and I hear nothing from them. It's been really difficult to not take it personally. It's likely though that it could be a combination of things that have nothing to do with me.

Rodney Olsen said...

We can't be responsible for others' attitudes but it doesn't make it any easier when the curtain goes down on a friendship we've cherished.

I'm thankful for friends who understand the busyness of life and realise that we can't spend as much time together as we did in the past. They are the friends who make it feel like we're just continuing where we left off, even if the last time we got together was years ago.

Beth said...

Eating out of the garbage! That link was funny. And it made me think of your post too. Not that your post was garbage! No! That your friend's thinking was garbage.

My husband's next oldest sister is so much like this. It is so hard to be around her at times because she is always feeling guilty about this or that or the other thing. Sometimes I think she just likes to hear herself complain and sometimes I think she wants to hear someone affirm her. Almost like a negative attention getter. She is definitely depressed.

I love my s-i-l very much. She's a wonderful lady but she is so difficult to be around. And it is her own choice to be this way and think this way. I can't change her.

Yellowhouse Grandma said...

I so needed to read that tonight, and I know I am going to go through my week thinking about bags of cement. . . and it will help me to not pour that cement on myself. I am very much that way when it comes to my adult children and their problems. . .it's hard to not wonder what if. . . if'd been a better mother. . more demanding. . . etc.etc. Thanks Debra. It's been a very difficult weekend and I needed that boost. Looking to the Lord for rest and peace.