I once heard Jen Hatmaker tell a story about the friendship of female elephants. She said that when they are vulnerable in some way, such as giving birth or being attacked, the rest of the females in the herd will stand in a circle to protect the vulnerable one. Jen compared this story to female human friendships… and I cried.
I’ve had friends over the years, don’t get me wrong. But a whole tribe I can count on to be there for me when I am most vulnerable? That seems impossible for me. If you’ll forgive my metaphors, I’ll continue.
The sisterhood seemed to start off well. I tried to make the purple pants fit out of convenience and it worked for awhile. But eventually, they just didn’t fit anymore. And I couldn’t figure out what I had done to make her give them back. And so began the stretch, wear, and tear.
I learned I had to do everything in my power to make the next person stay with the sisterhood. My fear of another unknown wrongdoing made me cling..no… suffocate. But being forced into something only stretches it out. She started spending time with other people and finally forgot about me. The pants came back with some holes after that, but I did my best to patch them up.
I learned to compare myself, and to try to shield her from my intensity. I could not be honest because honesty was too much. But you can’t have a friendship without honesty, so the pants came back to me… quite a bit more worn.
Then I wondered if I poured out my entire self to make her see my worth, if someone would finally keep the pants. Unfortunately, I expected the same amount of pouring back… and it was me who started taking back the pants that time, only loaning them out for short jaunts. And I continued this habit for years.
I learned I had to push people away first because they would eventually break my heart. I couldn’t give my heart completely because the pants would come back to me destroyed. The only problem with this plan was, when you love so easily, you can’t keep your heart to yourself no matter how hard you try.
So I’ve been in this constant tug-of-war with the pants for a very long time. They fit some people and they don’t fit others. Some people like them and some think they are too much. Some people get tired of them and some people want to wear them more than I’ll allow. And each back-and-forth adds another tear that threatens to destroy the whole pair.
But if I’m really being honest, no one has ever been able to keep the sisterhood going for very long. Because what has always worn the pants in these relationships is Shame. Shame that brought along its best friends- Fear and Self-doubt. I lost all confidence and tried to make it on my own, accompanied by the Shame-tribe, of course. At least I had a tribe.
But shame is destroying what’s left of a perfectly good, fun, comfortable, lovable pair of pants. And I don’t know what to do about it except to offer them to Jesus. Maybe he likes purple elephant pants. Maybe if I try to lay them at the foot of the cross, they’ll be stitched back together by the Man who scorned shame (Hebrews 12:2). I don’t know if it’s possible to repair the relationships that my shame-tribe and me have ruined but if anyone can make them new, He can. I’m not sure how to rid myself of the fear and self-doubt. The Lord knows I’ve tried… but only He can break those chains. I certainly don’t deserve it, but no one has ever deserved Him. Maybe one day all will be forgiven… and my heart won’t hurt every time I read about Jen Hatmaker and her tribe. Today it seems impossible… but maybe some day…
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” – Psalm 34:4-5
Song I’m feeling: More Than You’ll Ever Know, by Watermark
“Something brought you to my mind today
I thought about the funny ways you make me laugh
And yet I feel like it’s okay to cry with you
Something about just being with you
When I leave I feel like I’ve been near God
And that’s the way it ought to be
‘Cause you’ve been more than a friend to me
You fight off my enemies
You’ve spoken the truth over my life
And you’ll never know what it means to me
Just to know you’ve been on your knees for me
Oh, you have blessed my life
More than you’ll ever know”