December 30, 2004

For The Magnanimous Heart

Relationships have always been very important to me. Analyzing why, and I do analyze everything (A therapist once told me that is a sign of intelligence. “You mean neuroticism,” I retorted ), I can only conclude the lack of relationship in my own home while growing up. I so craved connection with people. My mother was too busy with her own stuff to question why everyone I came into contact with was a potential relationship. I talked to everyone and anyone about anything. On occasion, this posed embarrassing for my mother. Boundaries weren’t well defined and what semblance there was was frequently trespassed by those who feed on stealing the innocence of youth.

When I left my mother’s home at 15, my only concern and heartache was my fear of my brother, 3 years-old at the time, forgetting me. Alone for so many years, I had desperately wanted a sibling. His arrival was my resurrection. His life gave me hope of not being alone in the world. I diapered, feed, bathed, rocked, sang, and played at every opportunity. Somehow, I knew the key to my being someone of importance to him was in engaging in the nourishing of both his wee body and spirit.

All that work paid off. He didn’t forget me. At eleven, mom flew him to Columbia to spend his spring break with us. While he was there, we celebrated his upcoming birthday with homemade cake and a Cardinals jersey (he was and is a huge baseball fan). Alas, we were too poor to afford tickets to a game, but I thought the memorabilia was the next best thing. He loved it. The next year he came twice. Once again during his spring break, and then later in the summer when R and I moved from college life to the first job. R took him out in his old GMC to a parking lot and let him drive and turn circle after circle. When we made it to southwest Missouri, we went fishing and brought along a picnic lunch. My mother came to retrieve him after a short six days.

Over the next couple of years, I would drive that stretch of I-44 often, seeking to perfect my relationship with my mother and brother. Sometimes I took a child, sometimes I went alone. A child with me meant we listened to books on tape and shared treats and suffered together the misery of drinking too much soda and finding too little bathrooms. It also meant a trip to the bookstore with Gran and Nick, lunch out, and pizza in, movies watched while sprawled on the scratchy jute rug and sleeping late and waking to gigantic canned biscuits coiffed in butter and sweet jam. If traveling alone, my mother, Nick, and I would eat brunch at 501 and dinner at some French or Carribean or otherwise culturally acceptable restaurant. My family is as enamored with foreign culture as myself. It meant me finding an excusable errand on which to drag my brother along so that we might have a few minutes alone.

In the summer of 2001, my mother called and offered to take me along with them to Chicago. I jumped. My last child had been weaned and my body was now free from nutritional obligation. It was to be a four day trip, which R and I found manageable. We stayed in the Park Hyatt Chicago right on Michigan Avenue. Our room faced the lake and had a fantastic view. The hotel has a spa and while adequately preparing myself for a wax with a few glasses of inebriates, I made a confession that my mother found shocking and my brother found enlightening. I knew then that this would be someone to whom I wasn't merely obligated, but whose friendship I would desire and seek. There is a point in time when our siblings become more than shared genetics and a yearly gift swap. They become a human with a heart and experiences and somehow enjoyable and funny and fully forgiveable all at the same time. He is now not just my brother, but my friend.

All this said, it is very hard for me to let go of a friendship. There have been very few times I have found myself in the position of having to leave one, but when it does happen, it is extremely difficult for me to let go. Just this month, one of my close friends betrayed me. I was shocked, angry, and filled with the desire to cause bodily harm. After my initial reaction, I was dispirited and disappointed in the failure of my friend to keep my confidence. I told her that I was through with her, that I could never be her friend again, that I was "done" with her. I don't know that I fully believed it at the time, but it felt really good to say it. I wanted her to know just how exposed I felt and how she had made me feel carelessly dashed upon the the rocks.

The desire for resolution came when I realized that none us can be perfect, that we will fail, that we will possibly betray someone whom we dearly love. I have stood so many times before the throne of grace pleading my case for forgiveness. Who was I to deny this apologetic person what I have been given? Forgiveness doesn't equate restoration in a relationship. Restoration takes work to produce the finished product, and that is in this case, trust.

While there are few friendships I that have failed to maintain, there are some that have ended in a less than desirable way. Those are the ones that grieve me most. Those are the ones that I find myself missing. But in my sorrow, I am prompted to turn over these to God and commit myself to prayer for them in the hopes of being, one day, friends again in His presence.

Posted by Rae at December 30, 2004 06:54 PM

Rae, Thanks for sharing so wonderfully about you and your brother. I especially like hearing about Missouri since I used to live on I44 in Ozark and my dad grew up in the Joplin/Seneca area.
Blessings on your sabatical, well maybe, kinda, sorta one. :)

Posted by: Ben at December 30, 2004 07:19 PM

"What's going on inside me? I despise my own behavior. It only serves to confirm my suspicion that I'm still a man in need of a savior." (DC Talk- In the Light) This is my theme song. Thank you for mercy. It is truly humbling.

Posted by: Kelly with a Y at December 30, 2004 08:01 PM

Rae--Thank you for this post. You've left me with much to reflect upon and a reminder of how much I have for which to be grateful in the relationships realm.

Posted by: Cindy at December 31, 2004 12:50 PM

Great post about the brother and friends. I can relate to the completely outwardly relational type of approach to life.

I am sorry to hear of your friend betraying you. Your reaction and then your reaction to your reaction is completely understandable and I will join you in prayer. Especially along the themes of forgiveness and wisdom. I hope that if it is the Lord's will for reconciliation that the Spirit will provide the step by step process in due time.

You rock Rae.

Posted by: Randy at December 31, 2004 03:43 PM

Ben, I always knew I was an American; I didn't realize that I was a Missourian until we left.

Kelly- We are all in need, friend.

Cindy-you're welcome :) You frequently remind me to be grateful (and laugh, too), as well.

Randy- hard to rock when the chair is worn. Thanks for the prayer :)

Posted by: Rae at January 1, 2005 02:27 PM
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