When I hadn’t heard from my friend, I finally decided to halt my over-packed schedule and call her one more time. For weeks I had been getting her voicemail. Thanks to Facebook I knew she was still alive, but we are both busy, so I let it go. The last time we had talked she seemed different. Sad. Even distant. Due to circumstances at the time we didn’t really get the chance to talk. I regret that now.
She finally answered. She sounded awful. I feared the worst. I knew I hadn’t made the effort to check in with her like I should have. I immediately regretted not being more available. The second thing she said to me after hello was, “Steph, I messed up.” I knew exactly what she meant.
Honestly, I wasn’t shocked. How terrible is that? To suspect the worst only to have it confirmed. I was so very sad for everyone involved, knowing that the actions she chose were going to bring her even more heartache than what she was trying to rid herself of. Suddenly, to me, she was different. When she made the choices she did, every memory we had shared together suddenly seemed different. I wasn’t really sure who she was or if she ever was the person I knew her to be.
What do you say when people disappoint you? How do you respond?
I thought I would be angry. I thought I would yell, and tell her she knew better. I wanted to tell her she could lose it all. But something else happened. I just listened. And cried with her. And listened more.
She knew what she did was wrong. She knew she put her relationship with everyone she loved on the line. She knew she wasn’t owed forgiveness. She knew her life could change. She knew my opinion of her might change. But she owned up. She apologized to everyone involved. She is working on it.
In talking with some mutual friends about it later with her permission, I found so many saying, “I just can’t trust her,” “I don’t know how to be her friend,” “I don’t know who she is anymore.” I found people turning on her. They might not admit it, but they ran. Like she was infectious. Like her bad decisions were contagious.
I can’t judge anyone. We all deal with hurt, anger, and disappointment in our own ways. But I couldn’t help but think: isn’t this just so very typical of “Christians.” The very people who expect and put their faith in the principles of love and forgiveness and mercy are the first to revoke those gifts when it is us who feel wronged. Once, years ago, I heard my pastor, David Foster, say that the Christian army is the only army in the world that shoots its wounded. That statement has resonated with me and changed the way I view people who go through hard times or make what I would think are bad choices.
As Christians, we say we want our churches to be for people who need to know that God loves them and wants to be active in their life. Does that only apply to new converts? Do our churches and our relationships and our availability to help exists only for people who are not already “one of us”? I would say no. I think we are terrible at forgiving. We shoot people when they are down. Run when they need us. We write people off as no longer able to be a part of God’s plan after they stumble.
We have to fix this mindset. We have to remind ourselves that we are every day in need of forgiveness. That everyone is worthy in God’s eyes because of what Christ has done. Historically and biblically, those most used by God had massive screw-ups, did horrible things, and were once at a point where they could have been counted out. Why doesn’t that mindset still apply today? Can we help those around us pick themselves up? Encourage them? Remind then that their present state when they fall doesn’t have to be their defining moment.
My friend was so heartbroken to tell me where she was in her life. All I can do is be a friend. Love her. Help her get the help she needs. Only by the grace of God am I not her, and I would want my friends to never give up on me. So, I refuse to give up on my friend, because I know that it is not the mistake you make that determines who you are, but what you do after that determines your worth. I know she can find her way back to God’s plan. I hope we all can.