I recently learned that a dear friend of mine has cancer. After talking about getting together with her and another mutual friend, Jamie, for months, once we heard the news, it lit a fire under us to actually make it happen. This friend, Amber, turned 33 on October 20th, so Jamie and I decided to head to Tulsa and celebrate Amber’s birthday weekend with her. Hence, the reason why I was not at Homecoming. Well, one of the reasons. The main reason. I actually was leaning toward coming this year, believe it or not. Had I not gone to Tulsa to visit my friend, odds are that I would have been with all of you at Tech that day, at least for a short while. Unless, of course, I suddenly decided to change my mind and stay home. We all know this would have been possible. It wouldn’t have been the first time. I really was leaning toward coming, though. But I needed to go see my friend and I’m thankful to have gone to Tulsa instead of Ruston that weekend.
Amber had a birthday party at a local park on Sunday afternoon. Jamie and I sat side by side in chairs and visited with each other while Amber made the rounds hugging and talking with all her friends. Amber has always been a great teacher in my life, although she may not realize it. She’s one of those people who makes me want to do better, because she is the most genuine and Christ-like person I know. I always find myself observing and learning when I’m around her. She challenges me, albeit probably unintentionally. She doesn’t give lectures or try to teach anyone a lesson. She’s just being Amber, and I think this world needs more people like her. So, as I sat there visiting with Jamie, laughing at Jamie’s little boy’s antics, and soaking in all the joy that Amber’s friends were exhibiting, something struck me. I was filled with admiration & respect for Amber and shame for myself.
Amber, like me, is 33 and single. Amber, like me, is in a minority when it comes to her group of friends, because the vast majority of them are married with children. But Amber, unlike me, has actually kept those friendships strong throughout the years, whereas I have isolated myself. The easy thing is to blame it on the fact that I was experiencing a pretty severe broken heart right around the time most of you were getting married and starting your families. But I realize that’s a cop-out. Fortunately, a broken heart can only last so long. Y’all made an effort to include me in your activities for quite a while and I pushed you away. I didn’t want to be the black sheep. I didn’t want to be looked at differently or felt sorry for. (Pity party is a party of one; y’all weren’t invited!) So, I just avoided you entirely. I’d see you once or twice a year, if at all, and I’d assume we really didn’t have anything in common anymore because my life didn’t look like yours. It still doesn’t. Not by a long shot.
But Amber is single. Amber doesn’t have kids. And Amber was surrounded by a large group of awesome people and happy, energetic little kids who love her. And the weirdest part – it felt completely natural. From the outside looking in, there was nothing weird about it. Everyone seemed like they belonged just fine. It was comfortable. And everyone was happy.
It was obvious to me that Amber had made the wise choice and I had made the foolish one.
I know myself well enough to know that in pretty much any other group of people, I would have thrown up my defenses, my sarcasm, my cynicism and refused to see something that might step on my toes or make me squirm a little bit. In fact, some of you have tried to tell me from time to time that you still wanted me to hang out with y’all and I just blew you off. Even though you were being kind, I guess I just didn’t want to hear it. But Amber is a great teacher, so I watched and learned. I’ve been missing out and in large part, I’ve done it to myself.
So this is my apology for being a sorry excuse for a friend the past six or eight years. It’s shameful how I’ve behaved. And it’s rude. There’s a reason we all became friends in the first place and just because y’all have said “I do” and have become parents, you’re all still the same people I became friends with in college. So, I’m sorry. If you want to invite me to something at some point again, I’ll try to swallow my pride, hesitation, and slight discomfort and come. Because the truth is, I always have fun when I’m with y’all. And your kids and I might look at each other with distrust at first because we might make each other nervous, but we’ll probably warm up to each other. In fact, we kind of already have. Just last month, Elena showed me her My Little Pony collection and Caedmon almost took off my head with a toy sword. Mae smiled at me and Eli talked to me so closely and with such enthusiasm, I could smell the peanut butter on his breath. So who knows, maybe we can all be friends again. Real friends. I repent.
P.S. Please pray for Amber. She’s got a tough road ahead.