Living in the land of arm’s length

Column Post by Lisa Easterling

More than once I’ve concluded that I don’t think deep, close friendship is intended for me. I don’t say that because I don’t want it to be, but because the closest friends I’ve ever had (with a very few exceptions) have walked (or just faded) away.

Then I think maybe it’s supposed to be this way. It keeps me clinging to God all the harder, going to him with the wounds I don’t want others to see, ducking under the shadow of His wings to replenish and get stronger so I can move on.

I’ve been begged not to change who I am, the way I love, the way I push past my boundaries to meet the needs of others and be there for them even when it hurts me and my family. On the one hand I appreciate the thought because it says they believe in who I am–the real me–and want me to stay true to that person. On the other hand, though, I want to cry out, “Why? So I can keep getting doors slammed in my face in one fashion or another, over and over?”

Can one be divinely called to that?

Even my husband doesn’t seem interested in ever getting close to anyone in friendship again. He reasons that we have each other, and our family, and a few friends who have stuck by us and have (thus far) never walked away. Sad, the need for a “thus far”.

Maybe he’s right. But in all honesty I’m not sure how to live life keeping people at arm’s length. I know people who do, and seem almost gifted at it, but it just isn’t me.

At the same time I’m tired of opening a door only to have it shut hard and locked, sometimes without even an explanation. It hurts when goodbye comes, whether it is spoken aloud or not, whether a reason is given or not, whether it happens all at once or fades out over a period of time.

And the worst part is that even though in answer to prayer God brings some measure of healing, the hurt seems to never fully go away.

I’ve been here more than once, in this place of “I’m not really sure where that leaves me.” The big question is, is this where I’m supposed to live? If it is, then I pray for contentment here. I pray God will dissolve the longing for deeper closeness. If this is to be His provision and protection over me, then I pray for the will to accept it.

If this isn’t where I should resign myself to live, then I pray for clarity and growth. There has to be a way to discern His wisdom in all this.

Is this you, too, friend? Might we walk through this side by side, discover who we are designed to be in regard to friendship with others?

Surely the road would be less lonely if traveled together.

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Lisa Easterling is a lifelong resident of the Tampa Bay area alongside her husband Steve, five children, and two grandchildren. A pioneer for home education in Florida, she has served in various areas of Christian ministry for the past 32 years. Lisa is a lifelong writer, editor, creative writing coach, and Site Director for Write Where It Hurts. Her favorite place to write is near the ocean, and she particularly loves helping others to fall in love with words. Lisa blogs at www.lisaeasterling.com and can be reached by following @writepraylove on Twitter or emailing blue@lisaeasterling.com.

Read more encouraging stories from brave-hearted women here. Be sure to grab your free copy of inspirational quotes and writing prompts while you’re there. (Look over on the right hand side!)

12 thoughts on “Living in the land of arm’s length

  1. Yes, I have been there. I am there. I have had far too many people exit my life, some gracefully and others not quite as gracefully. It hurts no matter they leave. I have often prayed the same prayers you are praying – that God would take this longing for relationship away or send people who will stay. Saying goodbye is a strength I don’t wish to have. Thank you for sharing this! I think our writer’s personalities crave deep connection.

    • Dear friend, I hear your heart. How many of the strengths we need are not ones we would choose? And yes, our writer’s personalities must crave deeper connection, because that is where the real is. That is where the stories live. I wish you love today, sweet friend. Thank you for sharing the journey.

  2. Oh my goodness not only is it soooo good to read this it is sooo awesome to see the comments as well. I too, got the door slammed shut on a very significant (to me) relationship a year ago and I convince myself that II am okay with no friends…I wasn’t aware of keeping people away until I read your entry. I have friends…but something happens to a persons soul when a very significant person sends you an email to tell you the relationship is done…
    I would very much LOVE to walk hand and hand with you as we continue on in this journey with you. I am grateful today, that she is gone…my relationships that I do have, particularly with my parents, has grown and strengthened which I don’t think it would have if still in that relationship.
    What I know is there has to be a reason for this ‘divine subtraction’ and that I may not ever know the reason…that, today, is where the struggle is for me.
    Thank you for your safe place here, to write what it is I am feeling.
    Love, Blessings and PEACE!

  3. I had this happen a year ago, my “sister” sent me an email and said that she no longer wanted anything to do with me until SHE was ready…
    I have very close relationships but feel like something is off…the way she chose to do that, after calling me family…I don’t think I could ever trust her again..
    My heart hurts every single day because of her choice…I am grateful that God has enabled me to get closer to my aging parents and get some things settled with them before the die..I still don’t understand how someone who says I am family, says that love me for eternity and beyond…can choose to do what she did…I struggle every single day with venturing out and trying to gain new friendships and then I just don’t because I know they will ultimately end up in hurt. I have two very special, close women to my right now in my life and I believe that is the way God wants it.
    Thank you so very, very much for this safe place to share my heart and I would love to continue walking on this journey with you. It is sooo great to see I am not the only one.
    Love, Blessings and PEACE!

    • Dear friend, I am so glad you came by today. Making this journey together has to be easier, because when we share our struggles they become lighter for both of us. I am so sorry this has happened to you, too. I can completely relate. I’ve been left behind more than once, and have experienced the “soft blow” of fading away, the “hard blow” of goodbye, and the “2×4 to the face” of you-suck-as-a-human-being-and-should-never-have-another-friend. None of the experiences was pleasant, obviously, but the last one cut a tendon that I am still struggling to see healed. Thankfully there are people in my life who come against the Enemy’s lies (and they do sometimes come in the form of supposedly innocuous people) and remind me that I am not defined by one (or twelve) ill-intentioned person’s vengeful words. I am praying for you–for all of us who have walked this hard road–to be comforted and healed in Christ. TOGETHER, we will see our healing and walk on to love on other friends with the Love only He can author. Love you, sweet friend with the same first name. 🙂

      • Thank you so much! I appreciate your encouragement soo much and I am grateful for the ending of this relationship today for sooo many reasons….just seems to be a hurt that never really goes away. PEACE!

        • Girl, I totally get that. It seems to be a hurt that lies dormant until something triggers it and boom! there it is again casting doubt, robbing confidence, blowing resolve, raising all those badgering questions all over again. We are forced to give it to God or implode. How do you personally respond when this happens?

  4. I’m an abandoned child by my biological father & an only child. I value friendship so much for it is in true friendship that I fill in the loss of siblings, but unfortunately, though I’ve had several close friends for the past 40 yrs of my life, at this point, I still can say, I have someone I could really call my best friend. Some claim they are but, some I thought really were, but eventually turns out not to be. I thank God that He has given me this ability to not be lonesome being alone in about everything. I find joy & contentment doing things by myself but also when I’m in the company of others. As my son would usually, often, always say…”I’m a people person”. I thank God that I had not been bitter. Though admittedly, having 1 or several best friends to the truest meaning of the word, would be such a blessing. For those out there who do, I know you get my point. Be well everyone.

    • It is indeed a blessing to be able to trust that one person like a sister. I grew up without siblings around, so I was in essence an only child. I had several half-siblings but they were all a good bit older than me and only the youngest one (seven years my senior) really seemed to want a relationship with me. I’ve never really thought about the notion that maybe I’ve spent a lifetime trying to gain the sister I never had. Maybe much of my longing has been because my own sisters effectually rejected me. Bears pondering, anyway. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, dear friend. You are in my prayers.

      • My best friend and I called each other sister and I overlooked a lot in that relationship, my problem was I thought it was more than it actually was. ..she terminated our relationship with an email..yea so sometimes having one trusted friend is THE WORST as well. Good news is, I am truly thriving today because of that one decision! Thanks for sharing!!

        • You make a good point, Lisa. Having that one person so close makes it hurt all the more if abandonment comes. It is sad when we realize a relationship doesn’t have the depth we thought it had. I have encountered this numerous times in that I give and give and lose in the end. It makes me hesitant to reach out again, which wars against the way I am wired. 🙁

          • I think using terms like ‘sister’ and “best friend” sets a relationship up from the beginning with expectation. I haven’t reached out again, I’ve had others reach out to me and it’s a beautiful thing…I have close, wonderful relationships with these women…no best involved just deep commitment and its truly a beautiful thing! Thanks Lisa

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