Have you ever had an experience where you felt like you had to change who you were to fit in socially?
For me, that experience was high school. The angst, stress and pressure to make things work within the social scene was overwhelming at times. I had my church friends, my baseball teammates, my co-workers, my classmates, and other groups I was trying to navigate. On a regular basis, I felt like I had to wear a mask and shift who I was to fit into these groups.
True friendship, unlike what I just described, enables us to live deeply out of our true selves. We gain the freedom to express our sense of identity without fear of rejection, judgement or condemnation. We learn to drop the masks and show up honestly instead of editing and revising our uniqueness. True friendship breeds this kind of authenticity.
I was scrolling my Twitter feed not long ago when I came across this quote in a post from Mike Foster, founder of SecondChance.org. “A friend is someone knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
My friend, Ann McCulloch, was one of those people who sang to me. Ann passed away on October 31, 2011. I miss her terribly. While she was old enough to be my mother, Ann and I had so much in common and had been powerfully impacted by similar Christian writers like Brennan Manning, Dallas Willard, and Henri Nouwen. We both claimed the truth of 1 Corinthians 15:10: “By the grace of God, I am what I am and his grace toward me was not in vain”(ESV). When things got rough, Ann and I were able to “sing back to each other” the truth of who we are in Christ. While I miss a lot of things about Ann, losing her voice in my life has been one of the most difficult transitions.
In his sermon series called “Empty Promises,” Pastor Pete Wilson explores some themes and ideas that are at the core of who I am (and who Ann was). I had lost sight of these themes and ideas. It was almost as if Pete (whom I’ve still never met) began singing those truths back to me. God used Pete to show me the gap between where I was living and who God had created me to be. Like Ann, he sang the words back to me when I had forgotten the song myself.
I am created in the image of God.
I am loved unconditionally by God.
I am loved by God for who I am, not what I do.
My relationship with God is based on His grace, not my righteousness.
We all have values at the core of who we are. Gaps can develop, though, between what we’re doing and who we are. It’s incredibly difficult to consistently be who God created us to be in a world that has many other intentions for us. E.E. Cummings once said, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
In light of all this, I would encourage you to reflect on a few questions.
1) Who is your “Ann”? Who knows you well enough to remind you of your identity, when you lose sight of it yourself?
2) Who can you be “Ann” to? Who do you know who has lost their way? Who needs you to sing back to them the song that is in their heart?
Based on your answers, can I encourage you to take two steps?
-Today, reach out to the person whose name came to mind as you reflected on the first question. Schedule a time to get together with that person in the next two weeks, so you can ask him or her help to help you reclaim your identity.
-Today, also reach out to the person whose name came to mind as you reflected on the second question. Schedule a time with this person in the next two weeks and prepare to help him remember the lyrics of his song.
We need friends who know more about us than what can represented in our About page or Timeline. We need friends whose presence and fidelity is stronger than a friend request or “follow.” We need people who know us for who we truly are. When we embrace the transparency and intimacy these relationships create, we can claim our true selves, living deeply out of our sense of identity. These kinds of friendships can literally save our lives.
When Scott Savage cackles, people in the next zip code react. Scott lives in Phoenix, where he writes and pastors. He is married to Danalyn (a lawyer) and the father of 3 children under the age of 3. Scott blogs at scottsavagelive.com and you can follow him on Twitter: @scottsavagelive.