It seems to me that the way I give myself to others, is by holding myself back. Providing solutions instead of silence, keeping it together and most of all, Not Being A Burden.
What blesses people is not Messy Emma (in all her brokenness). It’s Shiny Emma: the Helper with her box of solutions. If I lean on others, I’m not being a friend. They want answers: not mess – right?
Then, I think of my friends and the people who bless me.
They’re messy and they’re real. They don’t pretend to have it together: and they don’t tell me what to do. They listen. They sympathise. Sometimes they challenge. They share themselves: their struggles as well as their triumphs. And their weakness is often what gives me strength.
This idea of ‘not being a burden’ is not biblical – and it’s disastrous for my diary and my mental health. If I’m always performing and pretending, I’ll quickly burn out. I’ll grow to resent those I want to bless; and I’ll look to my wisdom and my perfection to offer others hope. When this fails, I’ll withdraw and despair or scrabble around frantically for solutions.
The gospel preaches dependence: a Saviour who lives according to His Father’s will. Who gives us His Spirit and places us in a family that carries one another. If Jesus can ask His friends to watch and pray, then I can do the same. If Jesus relies on His Father for every breath, then I can rely on mine.
Friendship is not about keeping it together. It’s about sharing ourselves; in all our beauty and all our mess. Shininess blesses no-one. But honesty and grace reminds us that we’re not alone. They point to a hope that’s bigger than our very best solutions. And humility is something we practise as well as pray for.