Strange title for my first post back, huh? To be honest, though, it’s all I could tell myself today – “Stop watering dead plants, Kristi. Stop wasting the water.”
I have a black thumb. It’s a running joke in our house. My husband, especially, loves to tease me any time I beg for new greenery. How long will it live this time? The joke gets old, but I buy them anyway, and I kill them every time. I under water, over water…it doesn’t seem to matter. Even when I’m obsessing over it, they fade and I water them into oblivion.
Finally, when the thing is brown and shriveled or moldy and limp, far, far, far from anything resembling life, I succumb to my failure and throw it away.
Stop watering dead plants, Kristi.
It made so much sense today, and now, I have a story to tell…
The Forbidden Subject
First of all, I need to start off with this: I find it so difficult to write about friendship. Our town is small, and everyone either knows you, has heard of you, or knows someone that knows you fairly well. As a writer, that can become a bit tricky. People will happily digest your marital testimonies and parenting flubberies all day long, but talk about friendship, and all of a sudden, everyone inevitably wonders to whom you were referring. They’ll try to guess, you’ll get a few text messages from people asking if “we’re ok”, you feel awkwardness from a few others, because it’s clear they suspect you were talking about them… even though you weren’t, and so you just decide that relationships aren’t worth writing about and you’ll stuff it all away. But guess what, who is that good for? Me? You? Them? Our children?
Jesus could have spared Judas from the truth, but he didn’t. He could have played dumb under the guise of grace. And he could have been cruel about the reality of a false friendship, but he wasn’t. Jesus just walked the line of truth without mockery, placing blame, humiliating or hurting another. He did something else, too, though. He showed us how to walk through it with our dignity intact. Betrayal. Denial. Disappointment. Judas. Peter. The Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was faced with probably every type of relationship trouble he knew we’d encounter here. He knew, firsthand, what it felt like to look someone right in the eye, reveal his heart, only to watch them decide he wasn’t worth it.
I won’t name names. There are no names to tell. I won’t disclose examples, because they are tucked in my heart for the Lord to sort and mend, but I will tell you that I have been there. I’ve been through the trenches of friendship. I have faced betrayal, mockery, shunning, and the despair that comes when you are cut from the lives of others without so much as a “why”. I have heard the, “I’m never on Facebook,” and had to watch those same people interact daily with mutual friends on that very platform. I have noticed interaction with people I long-trusted and cared for dwindle to nothing, all while telling myself it’s just a wonky algorithm change, when I know I’ve been unfollowed for just being myself. I have been the “uninvited one.” I have reached out, more times than I can count, only to hear crickets in return… I have had to swallow my pride so much that I no longer choke on it, and I have gone to bed many nights wondering what I had done to cause a relationship to take a u-turn.
I have allowed those hurts and insecurities to ROB me. Let me repeat that. I have allowed those hurts and my own insecurities to ROB me. They ROB me of my time with my family, because I am not mentally present with them when my thoughts are somewhere else. I have allowed those times to ROB me of my joy and even my sanity. They say that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Well, offense is the thief of peace, hurt is the thief of sanity, and resentment is the thief of health.
A Friend Loves at All Times
Not just on Tuesday. Not just Christmastime. Not just at church. Not just in front of other people. Not just when your kids are in the same activities together. Not just when they need you to volunteer for something. Not just when they want to sell you something. Not just when you’re throwing a party. Not just when… Are you hearing me? A friend loves at ALL times.
There are friends in my life that I go months without speaking to because of time and space, but I know that I know that I know that if I picked up the phone tomorrow, they would answer with a smile. That, my friend, is a friend. If you have even ONE of those people in your life…thank Jesus. Seriously. They are rare, even as grown men and women. Be thankful for them. And things haven’t always been comfortable or pretty with them, but they’ve been REAL and honest and lasting.
I have had yo-yo friendships in my adult life, and they are so, so draining. You know the ones I’m talking about… They reel you in with a text, a compliment, an invitation to a get-together, they keep you feeling secure just long enough, you spill your beans and allow them precious space in your heart, only for them toss you back into the water gasping for air and feeling disoriented. They are your best bud and look right through you a week later. Vapor. That’s what it feels like. You are vapor. Meaningless. Unimportant. And all those precious nuggets of yourself that you so freely gave, now daggers in your heart. The record of, “You must have been a boring friend… You did something wrong… You must have said something offensive… Maybe they didn’t like this or that…” starts playing in your mind, and you give away mental space that wasn’t free for the taking. Heart space that is needed for your family. And you stand there, staring at that dying plant, and you water, and water, and water anyway. Why are you watering? Stop it.
I read a little about how NOT to kill houseplants, because I’m so talented at NOT keeping them alive. One of the tests you can do to see if there is hope for your plants is to scratch it…bend it a bit. A plant that still has hope will show signs of life beneath…a little green. It will be flexible and bend, not snap on you… Sometimes, a plant is dying on the surface, so you prune it back, down to the place where it’s still viable… You prune and you wait for rejuvenation.
So maybe you “scratch” at the relationship… “Are we ok? I feel like there’s an awkwardness between us…” You apply a bit of that pressure to see if they bend or snap… And if all seems lost on the surface, you cut the relationship back down to it’s root, in hopes that it can eventually regrow, stronger and healthier than it was before. You get over the fact that it won’t be blooming any time soon, and you focus on the foundation.
But sometimes, beneath the scratching and pruning, you find nothing. No signs of life, no depth – just brittle, dry, flaky nothing. It’s dead. And if it’s dead…stop watering it. Quit giving it space in your home. Quit wasting your time and resources. Some plants are good for a time, a season. Some will last forever through brutal temperatures, darkness, and drought. Those are the plants I want to hang onto, and by “plants,” you know I mean “people,” right? Those are my people. My tribe. The faithful ones… The hearty ones… The ones that can take root and sustain themselves through all of life’s circumstances and bloom for you, even when you barely water them…
Re-pot and Refocus
You can feel the pang of disappointment, but do yourself a favor, and let that pang be brief. Empty the pot, and fill it back up with a plant that is alive and healthy. Am I making any sense? There are probably already people in your life practically begging for your time and attention. Even when your morning just plain sucks, show up at that playdate in your pajamas. Make your neighbors soup when you hear they are sick – they might become your closest friends. Send a fellow mom a random note of appreciation once a year – it might be the only affirmation she’s gotten in awhile. Other plants need water. Sometimes those plants are the people living under your own roof. Quit obsessing over the ones you couldn’t keep alive despite your best efforts, fanciest pots, filtered water, and the perfect amounts of sunlight.
I’m not saying, “Just give up on everyone.” Jesus didn’t give up on Judas. Didn’t forsake Peter. Didn’t even kick the disciples out of the garden. He remained true to himself, the Father, and his purpose. He loved at all times, but no where have I read, “He pulled Judas aside and asked him to explain himself, and then when he knew Judas didn’t really love or believe in him, he begged him to change his mind. He offered the argument that he was a friend worth keeping, and gave him the best seat in the house. He pleaded with the Father for an intervention, and when that didn’t work, he decided to just cast the devil out of Judas anyway and force his devotion.”
Nope. Jesus drew him in, disclosed the most intimate details of who he was, washed his betrayer’s feet, spoke the truth plainly, and when Judas still didn’t turn his heart towards Jesus, Jesus let him go… No weeping, no persuasion, no manipulation, no self-doubt or feelings of utter failure in the friendship department. He loved through it, and then, let him go.
Pints and Gallons
A good friend once gave me the analogy regarding relationships, and I have found it to be very true in my own experience. She said, “There are gallon-size people, and there are pint-size people. No matter how hard they try, or how hard you want them to, pint-size people will never have the capacity to fill you up.”
Are you a gallon or a pint?
I’m a gallon. And I don’t say that to brag or place myself on a pedestal, but I know who I am. I know my tendencies. I will fill you up all day long…with affirmation, meals, gifts, coffee, my time… I give it away. I don’t care if it’s 3 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon…if you live 7 minutes away or 70 minutes away… I will be there if you need me. I often exhaust myself fretting over the needs of others, and I often bleed my hubby’s wallet dry, because time and money are nothing for me to give. But the honest truth is, even gallon people need a source of refill. You can’t pour from an empty cup, right? And that’s where I have had to learn these hard lessons and look deep within. I’ve had to have some hard, critical conversations with myself, and I have had to rely on Jesus more in the past five years than ever before.
Abiding in Him
I’ve had to learn to ABIDE.
I am the vine and you are the branches… (John 15:5)
He is the one and only plant in my life that will NEVER die. And the ONLY water source that sustains me so that I can be that plant that doesn’t die on the people in my life either. And if you are a gallon person, He is the ONLY way to be full again after you’ve spent the day, the month, the last five years watering everyone else around you.
Want a friend?
BE a friend.
And if you’re standing there, obsessing over dead plants in your life…test them…prune them back down to their roots…and if the life has truly left, give your water to someone else. xo