Emily Jamieson is a life coach, speaker and writer whose central aim is to illuminate truth and facilitate freedom in others. Her love for God’s Word and God’s people is contagious; dubbed a “trajectory shifter”, Emily’s words repeatedly bring others toward clarity, love and life.
Emily and her husband Marshall spend much of their time wrangling their four small men and working out life and ministry from their home base in Gig Harbor, WA.
For years I have struggled with the fear that I am not a good friend. Because I didn’t have a “crew” or one person that I text with every day, or knew when a friend‘s haircut was, I interpreted that to mean that I didn’t care enough or do friendship well.
I scanned the horizon to see how all sorts of other friends were doing “it” — dropping off meals, grabbing each other’s kids, texting funny memes daily, asking after each other’s health regimens — such “research” only seemed to leave me staring into a mirror that highlighted all of my deficiencies.
I am one whose friendships have always been wide and deep. I love delving to issues of heart and faith and my closest friends span from 12 to 76. I might not be in or know the details of their daily life, but I know what they fear and hope for. I care about people deeply and friends’ names pop into mind often, prompting me to pray for them as I drive carpools and go about the task of managing a little frat house. (I have four sons!) Keeping up with texts seems like a monstrous task when they range from light questions like, “how do I find my purpose?” “do you think we are in the end times?” to the 17 reminders for snacks at school and doctors appointments and if I had an idea where I filed last year’s taxes. I simply don’t know how to only run with a few, and frankly, don’t feel compelled to. I love people, but have always felt a vague guilt that I was supposed to be more and different all at the same time.
One day years ago, as I confessed this insecurity to a mentor, she swiftly posed the question back to me, “well, what kind of friend are you?” It stopped me in my tracks. It never occurred to me that there are different kinds of friends. That we could need different things from a variety of people and each could serve their own unique purpose in the web of community. Another mentor shared “no one person is ever made to be enough for any other one person.” Simply, we need a diversity of people in our lives!
"No one person is ever made to be enough for any other one person."
And while these words certainly have offered a shift in my thinking, the accusatory whispers have not entirely ceased.
Indeed, due to many moves and shifts in growing a family and ministry, there’s no one group that I have “run with” for years, but instead have gathered treasured friends along the way and sewn them in like a mismatched patchwork quilt. Many of my closest people have never met each other, much less vacation together. I don’t have the small group that’s been together since high school or the best friend from birth. At times this reality made me wonder if somehow I was failing and recently that old insecurity again reared its head.
As I brought this tender spot to God, I heard the Spirit whisper to the depths of my heart, “you might not be an every day friend, but you are a friend every day.”
It was balm to my insecure soul. Indeed, every day of my life I’m walking in deep friendship. It may not be the same friend every day, and I may not know details of her life, but I know the depth of her heart. I may not remember an anniversary, but when the Lord brings someone to mind, I text and ask “how can I pray” and often hear in response “how did you know?”
It may not be the same friend every day, and I may not know details of her life, but I know the depth of her heart.
I am connected to the One who is the best of friends, the wisest of counselors, the most loving of companions.
And I’m beginning to see more clearly that the friendships I have span generations and continents, are deep and rich and have given me a diversity of stories and experiences that have allowed me to see the fullness of the God who is reflected in each of them.
There are many different kinds of friends: everyday friends and deep hearted friends and crisis friends and vacation friends and party friends. (And we can be more than one!) Even as I scan my own history, I see the moments when I have played each of these roles in my varied friendships.
I confess that I always want to grow in friendship. I want to leave margin in my life for thoughtfulness. I desire to remember birthdays and follow up with someone when they have shared something tender. I hope to be inclusive and wrap friends in who are on the fringes when a gathering allows for new faces. And I want to grow in grace for others and myself, because there have been plenty of times when I projected my own happiness and belonging upon others. Moments when I wondered “who is going after me?” which led to bitterness and feelings of being left behind, rather than wondering “who am I going after?”
When I wonder the latter question aloud with God, the Spirit inevitably brings people to mind to pray for, to call, to invite on a walk or loop into a gathering. And grace reminds me that I am only one. I cannot be responsible for all, but only those that are before me. Only those the Lord lays on my heart. This leads me to be so full of gratitude when others pursue me, because I recognize the time and energy and bravery it takes to pursue another. It really is a courageous thing.
It is imperative we learn to rightly divide between guilt and conviction. Guilt says that I am responsible for the happiness of others. Guilt says that when someone feels left out or angry, it is my fault. Conviction, on the other hand, tells me that I can be committed to the happiness of others, insofar as I have energy and time and the spirit is leading, but that their belonging is not my responsibility. Conviction will gently reveal where I might need to make amends when I have misstepped because conviction comes with hope for renewal. And when I have lacked thoughtfulness, or my lack of pursuit has left a friend angry (remember, anger is a secondary emotion; it most often masks sadness) I can extend grace and apology because in essence, they just miss us and want to be in it together.
*To be clear, there are some friends who are operating out of old narratives, and project much hurt and fear upon you, and may gently need to be steered toward a counselor to find help in being a healthier friend (heck, we all could use that, and I have! But here I am talking about the unnecessary guilt we take on that no one has asked us to carry)!
Settling into who I am, knowing that there’s always growth to be done, and making peace with who I am not is such a gift of freedom.
So, if you’re reading here and you are figuring out friendship, I would love nothing more than for you to know that you are deeply loved. I pray you don’t get too cozy with a few such that you don’t have eyes for the next one whose presence would bless you (and vice versa!) and that you would not get discouraged if you have not yet found the ones who seem to tangle best with you. There are friends who you do not yet know exist who together will make life so much richer.