Roller Coaster Friendships

I thought I just wasn’t into roller coasters.

This summer, though, I discovered I couldn’t even handle, much less enjoy, the whirling tea cups at Busch Gardens.  I rode them visit after visit because my three-year-old finds them great fun and she has to ride with an adult.

But I braced myself each time.  My middle girl always yelled the same thing, “Spin the wheel!  It makes us go faster!”

As I hung on with a white-knuckled grip, I managed to sputter out something like, “Aren’t we spinning enough already?”

It gets worse than that.

Recently, I sat on the swing next to my preschooler as she shouted at me to “swing higher.”  I gave it a try even though it’s been years since I’d swung on a swingset and I’ll tell you what I discovered.

I’m old.  Even a swing made my stomach flip into complicated and tangled knots.

How is this fun?  This little girl next to me in a ponytail and light-up shoes was giggling and squealing that she needed to rise higher and higher.

I suppose I just prefer solid ground.  No need for speed.  No desire to let gravity wreak havoc on my digestive system.  Fun for me is a trip to the library, a hushed walk through a museum, a long stroll on a cool day, a comfy couch with my book, chocolate and cup of tea.

That is fun.  Spinning, screaming, and lifting off the ground = not fun.

This is, perhaps, why first grade friendships have me befuddled lately.  Friendship means loving one another, believing the best about each other, laughing and crying together.  It means loyalty, sharing, encouragement and support.

In first grade, though, the kids are still figuring all that out.  So, instead of the solid ground kind of you-can-count-on-me, dependable r049elationships, they end up with something more like a daytime soap opera, a roller coaster of kindness and backstabbing.

My first grader reports one day that so-and-so said, “she can only be friends with one girl and nobody else” and she stuck out her tongue or wrote a nasty note or stole my daughter’s glue stick and mocked her hair cut.

The next day, my daughter says they are friends now and played together all day.

The day after that, she reports the girl “just left her alone and ignored her.”

Even as adults, we can find this world a dizzying place to live, a roller coaster ride of the unexpected and occasionally the downright scary.

We are blessed, some of us, to have friendships and marriages that keep our feet firmly locked onto the unshakeable ground of trustworthy relationships.

And yet, how often lately I have heard of lovers who swore to “love, honor and cherish ’til death do us part” later end up enemies on the opposite sides of a divorce attorney’s table.

Even truly loyal relationships end eventually, maybe through moving or even death.  The people we count on and love won’t always be with us, not here on this transient planet anyway.

That’s why it’s so precious that Jesus declared,

“I no longer call you servants.  I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

He’s our forever friend!  So faithful, so eternally compassionate, so genuinely understanding.  This is no first-grade cohort, kind today and snippy tomorrow, supportive today and jealously cruel the next.

He’s day-after-day, in-and-out, always-and-forever loyal to those He calls friends.

But am I?

That’s what Joni Eareckson Tada asked in Diamonds in the Dust:

“What a friend I have in Jesus.  But I wonder….what kind of friend does He have in me?
Too often we stay at an arm’s-length distance, pulling back from the full intensity of an intimate friendship with the Lord.  We satisfy ourselves with “less” when it comes to our relationship with Him” (p. 400).

Of course, Jesus is faithful.  That’s His character.  It’s who He is no matter what.

The question really is more about me What kind of friend am I to God?  Do I pull away, afraid to get too close for fear He’ll discover the ugly truth about some of my faults, foibles and (to be honest) sins?

Do I chatter and laugh with Him affectionately some days only to abandon Him the next for busyness and more instant gratification?

Do I deny Him and stray from Him when I’m angry or hurt?  Do I believe the best about His character even when I don’t understand what He’s doing?

To be a better friend with God requires maturing past our first-grade relationship tactics and becoming day-after-day loyal and true regardless of our emotions, circumstances, or the enticements of others.

Today we can choose to be better friends to each other and to our trustworthy God who is so consistently faithful to us.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

A Message for Monday

My resolution for today:

To breathe in and breathe out, deep taking in of peace and pushing out of contentment.  No catching my breath in anxiety, hyperventilating stress, and rushing to the point of breathless exhaustion.

Just breathe.  Move through the day without giving into the push, push, push of “faster, more, do, accomplish, check off the list, get it done.”  Walk as I vacuum, walk as I put away the clothes.  Make that phone call without simultaneously folding underwear and t-shirts.

And spend time with Jesus for relationship not for task-completion.

The temptation is there, of course.  It’s the curse of Monday.  All of the spillover from last week, the messages to read through and answer after taking a Sabbath from all of that “connection” over the weekend, and the new tasks ahead clamor at me for attention.

What was that email I needed to send?
Wasn’t there someone I needed to call?
What did my kids need for school today?
Was I behind on my reading, my commitments?
Didn’t I need to print this for the week and pack that for tonight and fill out that form and mail back that letter?

It’s a million tiny things nipping at the heels of my Jesus-focused life, yipping and yapping until I turn my attention from Him.matt11

And then when I do sit down to rest at His feet, dear Father, oh my Father, I am so thankful to be in Your presence ….

Still I fail.  Still I pop up every few minutes for the ding of the laundry and the starting of the meal in the Crock-Pot (must give it 6 to 8 hours to cook!), and the reminder of something else needing to be done.

My time with Him becomes stilted, becomes stale, becomes necessary without being the fresh oxygen in my soul I need for very survival and beyond that, the abundant life He promises.  Necessary only because it’s an assignment, like homework for school.

It’s more like: Read the assigned Bible reading.  Check.  Read the passage in the study for this week’s group discussion.  Check.  Complete the other Bible study . . . while interrupted and racing against the clock:

Must…..finish…..so…..I…..can….check….this….off…..my…..list….and……do…..other…..things.

I wonder if He’d prefer if I just skipped it all rather than flop down at this kitchen table half-hearted and thinking about 50 things clearly more important than He is to me in that moment.

This isn’t relationship.  This is business.


In his book, Prayer, Richard J. Foster wrote:

“Today the heart of God is an open wound of love.  He aches over our distance and preoccupation.  He mourns that we do not draw near to him.  He grieves that we have forgotten him.  He weeps over our obsession with muchness and manyness.  He longs for our presence…

We do not need to be shy.  He invites us into the living room of his heart, where we can put on old slippers and share freely.  he invites us into the kitchen of his friendship, where chatter and batter mix in good fun.  He invites us into the dining room of his strength, where we can feast to our heart’s delight….” (p. 1)

Maybe that’s my problem.  I’ve been barely acknowledging His presence at times at my kitchen table.  Perhaps I should take up His invitation to hang out in His kitchen.  To eat in His presence and share in good company and the intimacy of friendship, not on my terms, but at His offering.

In a similar way, Joni Eareckson Tada writes:

 “God always uses such intimate language when He relates to us.  He paints warm images of sheltering us under His wings, holding us in the palm of His hand, or drawing us close to His breast.  He’s so personal with us, why shouldn’t we be with Him?” (Diamonds in the Dust, p. 288).

At the Last Supper, the apostle John leaned against Jesus, drew in close and rested against the Savior, even while realizing that Jesus was about to be betrayed (John 13:25).

Why be more like Peter, who in shame and frustration, perhaps even anger at the destruction of his plans and agenda, certainly in fear…”followed him (Jesus) at a distance” (Matthew 26:58) after Christ’s arrest.

Sure, I’m always following, I’m a faithful kind of girl, trailing after God always.  But sometimes I’m just stepping into the imprint of His footsteps rather than walking by His side, following out of obedience only, mostly out of distracted busyness and duty.

Today I resolve to breathe in and breathe out, to linger here at the table with Jesus and lean into His presence.  No rushing up from the meal to pursue my own agenda.  No skimming through the page of Scripture to get to the end of the assigned reading.

Leaning into Jesus.  Breathing in and breathing out.  Then walking side by side with Him into my day, not tripping along behind: holding His hand and chatting along the journey.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, was released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King