Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Tending Your Own Garden
Many years ago, I lost a very dear friend. We had been close - closer than sisters. Our children played together. Our husbands fellowshipped together. We shared births and deaths, highs and lows. Our families were in and out of each others homes and each others lives. And then one day, that camaraderie, that friendship, died. To say that our friendships death knell was sudden wouldn't be truthful, but unexpected - yes.
When I finally came to realize that our sisterly affection had been replaced by not-so-subtle hostility, I was shaken to the core. I immediately called my friend, asked directly about the cracks in our relationship and sought resolution. What I was confronted with was rigid and complete unforgiveness.
I was heartbroken. Then I was sad. And then I was mad. I ran all of the reasons for our distance through my mind and couldn't really come up with one, single incident or situation that had brought such a fracture to our once treasured friendship. The only problem that I could come up with was that I had stopped calling her and going to her house every week. It had come to my attention that the only time we talked or got together was when I called her or visited her home or made the effort to invite her to my house for tea. To top that off, when I seriously injured my back my dear friend didn't appear. She didn't call to see if I needed anything or if she could take care of the kids or if she could help with the household chores. Nothing. I was hurt. So what did I do? I didn't call. I didn't visit. I stubbornly decided that if she wanted to talk to me, she could make the effort.
This went on for quite a while. When I would see her in town, I would hug her, ask after her family and pretend that everything was fine - feeling very justified. And then she had a baby that was very sick. I went to the hospital, and prayed with her and braided her hair and sat with her, but she really didn't want me there. The hurt just kept growing and growing, until finally, she wrote a scathing blog entry about her "friend" that wasn't truly a friend after all.
In the years that followed, I tried numerous times, to heal the rift that had developed between us but to no avail. Every attempt I made was rebuffed or contemptuously tolerated. When we saw each other, we would paste smiles on our faces and remove ourselves from the room as quickly as possible. Our once tight-knit families became strangers to each other.
In truth, the implosion of our friendship rests equally on both of our shoulders - it is no more all her fault than it is all my fault. But even this great loss has had many blessings. I have learned more from my friend since our falling out, than in all of the years of our friendship. Let me explain.
One of the things that drove me crazy about my friend was the state of her house. I know that sounds terrible, but if I am going to be honest, it's true. She was a terrible housekeeper. Her laundry was always piled high, her dishes never done and there was garbage on the floor. Her yard was a mess, her basement abysmal and her children' bedrooms terrible. It was bad enough that it was very distracting to me. I loved her, but her housekeeping bordered on slovenly. And it drove me crazy. I knew that it shouldn't bother be, but it did. It made me not want to visit her home. It made me not want to put my baby down on her floor. It made me question how she ordered her day if she couldn't even finish the dishes. Between my feelings of disdain for her messy house and the fact that I felt like I had to make all of the effort to maintain our friendship, I quit trying and our friendship died.
And then one day, as my children were squabbling over some trinket or another, I caught myself saying something that hit me like a ton of bricks. I said to one of them "That is not yours. It is not up to you to take care of it - it is up to your brother. If he doesn't take care of it, he will have to suffer the consequences. It is his responsibility". And then it struck me - I had been irritated at my friend for not taking care of what she had. I had always loved her old farm house. I loved the wood floors and the lath and plaster walls and the big rooms and the huge windows. I loved her house and she didn't take care of it. I lived in a shop. I cleaned it and cared for it, but it was still a shop - not a century old farmhouse. My envy, my jealousy had prompted me to judge my friend. And my envy, not her poor housekeeping skills, had damaged our friendship. I had been so busy trying to tend my neighbors garden that I had forgotten to weed my own.
It is so easy to think that we know how other people should care for their possessions and the people in their care, but that is not our job. It is our job to tend our own gardens. We need to raise our children, manage our homes, love our husbands. We need to be so busy taking care of our own "houses" that we don't have time to tell everyone else how to take care of theirs.
Even in the midst of broken relationships God is tending His garden. And I am so thankful.
In the Service of the King -