It's one thing to be intimately known by the Creator of the Universe. God made us. Like an engineer, He knows the minute details of each of His creations, how He put them together, where everything belongs, how it all works, what it needs to move. Really, it would be weird if He didn't know all of that. Whether you like it or not, He knows our hearts and our minds, what makes us sad or mad and what absolutely makes us come alive.
It's something entirely different to be closely known by another person. (Not that another person could ever know you like God does, but as much as one person can. You know what I mean.) That takes vulnerability. That takes a choice to let down all your walls and trust that maybe this time, maybe for once, you won't have it all thrown back in your face. That takes boldness, the risk to put yourself out there again, no matter how many times you've been wounded or how many scars you still hold on to.
But you know what? When it works out, when you find that person with whom you just click, it's such a beautiful thing. It's the kind of thing that makes you smile, but when people ask you why you're smiling, you can't even really put words to it. When you let another person in that close, when you let them know your heart and see your scars and know what makes you tick, things happen. New wounds start to heal and old scars start to fade. Memories are made, even when it's something as simple as a conversation. You begin to see yourself the way the other person sees you, the way you can't naturally see yourself because you've always been your own worst enemy. And best of all, if you're lucky, you can see God more clearly, too.
I am surrounded by so much love, even when it's not physically close. I have the best crew of brothers a girl could ever dream of, and I wouldn't trade any of them or my relationships with them for anything in the world. They are all kind, and humble, and generous, and funny, and I consider myself so blessed every single day to get to be a part of their lives and have them be a part of mine. But there is one person with whom my relationship goes a level deeper.
Clayton. I knew he was my brother when we were at Campbell (obviously), but since we graduated, since all we've had to rely on are FaceTime and texting, our relationship has gone to a level that I didn't even know was possible being so far apart. Our bond has grown more since we moved 850 miles apart from each other than it ever did when we were on the same small campus, and that can only be credited to the grace of God. We got to talking about grace tonight, actually spurred from a conversation about baptism (long story), and then it became how people can be a sign of God's grace. I don't know many people who fit that more in my life than he does. There is a level of safety between us that takes risk and boldness and vulnerability, and I know it was all of those things for the both of us, but now that it has...I can't even really put words to it. I just know that I am so much better because of him and who he is in my life, and that I see God and His grace so crystal clear every time we finish one of our FaceTime dates.
I'm thankful that grace doesn't have to look one certain way. That I can see it in a chat with a dear, dear friend, in how he makes me laugh on a really painful day, in how I instinctively know and trust that I am safe to be honest when I don't get that feeling very often. God really is Emmanuel; He is here with us, always, in all things, even things we may not necessarily see as being holy.
This world is hard. Life is hard. Trust me, I know all too well that it is hard. And the hard can be so draining. When so many people from so many different directions are telling you what's wrong with you, or what you need to change, or how you should be, it can be really easy to believe that maybe if you just did what they said, the suffocating loneliness you feel when you lie awake at night would go away. That's how I was for a long time. But it's because of friendships like the one I have with Clayton (and Ryann, and others) that I've learned that changing really isn't necessary. Because it's exhausting to try to be who you think you're supposed to be, and doing it will drain the life right out of you. When really, if you're just true to the person you were made to be, eventually you will find people who see that and who yearn to know your heart and will love you through the mess and the scars and all the ugly baggage that every human has but not every human is willing to own up to. I know because that's what I have lived.
It's so unbelievably freeing not to have to try anymore. To have people who know my dark side and are still here. To be known. And it's in seeing the way that they know me and love me that I am reminded that I have a friend in Jesus that will stick "closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24), but God still loves me enough to send me people to walk through the roller coaster of life with. I love them because He loves me (1 John 4:19), but because of the love I have with them, I am drawn to know the greatest Love even more. What a beautiful circle, no?
So if I could say anything to someone feeling lonely, hoping and praying and searching for true friends that they can trust and rely on and do life with, it would be this: Keep praying. Keep hoping. Keep searching. Because they are there. God is Love; He doesn't know how to make an unlovable creature. I know what it's like to feel broken and unlovable, but when you least expect it, someone you won't expect to care (or a whole team of them) will show up and take your hand (sometimes literally) and stand by you through the mess. You will get the chance to be known and seen and do the same in return for someone else. I wish I could tell you when, because hope can feel impossible when you keep waiting and waiting, but just know that you are not a mistake. Your personality, your heart, your being, they are not a mistake. And one day, you will find someone who sees you and learns of your scars and says, "Is that all?" God desires to bless His kids, and He knows the desires of your heart. Trust in that when you've got nothing else to hold on to.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . ."” - CS Lewis, "The Four Loves" ... often quoted, but so very true