When you feel too fragile for friendship
I load our baby and toddler into the car. Sleep deprivation has sunk into my bones, but we’re headed to Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) anyway with the help of MapQuest because I have no idea where I’m going in this new town.
I hope to meet one nice mom, but really, I’ll settle for any adult with a pulse who isn’t throwing a sippy cup on the floor. I simultaneously hope to meet no one because they’ll ask me how I’m doing, an innocuous question that could potentially trigger tears.
I remember this fragile moment like it was yesterday, but it was really over seven years ago this month.
Some seasons of life feel more fragile than others.
I feel fragile in times of transition, uncertainty, and newness. During seasons like these, I know that if I fall apart, I’ll break into a thousand, sharp, jagged pieces. My fragile heart sends me two equally-real and equally-opposite messages:
Sharp, jagged pieces are not conducive to healthy relationships, and I need people.
There’s tension between what I need to do (make friends) and what I want to do (hide in a corner). I’m desperate to connect but I fear falling apart.
In this tension, I can either follow the way of Jill or the way of Jesus—both equally-real and equally-opposite.
The way of Jill is to strap a mask over my fragile heart.
At MOPS, I didn’t want anyone to detect vulnerability, so I resolved to wear my all-together mask. The more fragile I feel, the tighter the mask is secured, but it suffocates who I most truly am. This feels the best route…until it’s not.
The way of Jill is to have a one-sided friendship.
Fragile Jill can’t bear the weight of friendship or the energy it requires because, in my friendships, everything depends on me always being strong, supportive and helpful.
It’s connection on my terms, when I’m ready with answers and a clean house.
It’s configuring a facade that all is well, even when my inside is screaming that all is not.
It’s constructing my life in such a way that I don’t need your help.
The way of Jesus is to live authentically.
My mask never fools Jesus. He knows that my all-togetherness doesn’t serve me or others, and He prefers that I live healthy and whole, not hidden. He wants me to risk exposing my imperfections and to allow my feelings to come to the surface.
The way of Jesus is a true, two-sided friendship.
What if friendship is not about me helping you but about two broken and flawed souls communing over shared humanity?
Friendship is unity in our brokenness; the understanding that it’s okay to bring our hurts, needs, and emotions to the table.
Friendship is a humility practice because I accept help from others, while not being the strong, all-together one all the time.
Friendship is not cleaning myself up on my own, but processing with others who are safe and gentle with my heart but still firm in their convictions.
Friendship is not connecting when I’m ready, but connecting in the midst of the hurt, through the call that’s more sniffling than words, and the silence as we sit on the couch and stare at our knees.
Friendship is dismantling the facade and cheering each other on.
Friendship is constructing my world in a way that makes you an integral part of my life and development.
The way of Jesus is a total gift of grace.
Peter is a fragile man after Jesus’ death. In his fragile state, facing a life without the Man he followed and loved, Peter returns to his boat, his place of comfort and familiarity.
Jesus visits the shore and Peter recognizes Him. He runs toward Jesus, and he doesn’t stop to strap on his mask. Jesus makes him breakfast and asks him questions that get at his heart and remind him how loved he is.
That simple act of questions over breakfast gets me every time.
In my fragility, I need someone to bring me a cupcake with sprinkles and ask me questions. And that’s what Jesus did.
Sort of… I mean, no sprinkles.
Good friends know what Jesus knew: we all need presence, healing questions, and restored connection.
A fragile heart gives us the permission to not be perfect.
At MOPS, we are present and asking each other the pre-printed questions. The woman next to me bursts into tears as she shares. My fragile heart breaks for her, and I want this type of fearless woman as my friend.
In her tears, my eyes open to this truth: her sharing her hurt was my permission slip to not be perfect.
So sister, if you’re feeling fragile today, let that be your cue that you have permission to not be perfect. God gives us friendship during fragile seasons to offer help and hope. Friendship is presence, restoration, and connection.