It’s been a while since my last post and to all my readers, I’m sorry about that. I basically have been busy with “life stuff.” From an upcoming company launch (I can’t wait to share with you) to preparing for my youngest daughter’s June wedding, I’ve hardly been able to look up. My feet touch the floor at 7:45 A.M. and rarely do they return to the bedroom until 1:00 A.M. Sheesh.
Life. Is. Busy.
My daughters comment that if I didn’t go at a 120 mph pace at all times, they’d surely think something was wrong with their mother. With the exception of my recovery after the car accident, they’ve never seen me operate any way but “full steam ahead.” One of my girlfriends swears that my brain is “on fire” and never knows when or how to shut down. Hmmm. Perhaps I’m guilty of all of the above but that’s just how I roll. Perhaps you should pray for my husband, Steve. But then again, if you knew him, you’d know he goes at an even faster speed than I do. Mercy me. Perhaps that is just how we’re wired.
But this past week, my husband and I actually slowed down and embarked on a reunion cruise with 14 of Steve’s classmates from high school. I won’t say how long it’s been since they graduated from Auburn Academy, but many have maintained such a close relationship, that I can’t help but be thankful that they’ve accepted me as one of the gang. When I say close, I mean they are buds for life. They may be scattered from Washington state to Georgia, but they call one another, attend parent funerals, attend grown kid’s weddings, and one actually conducts the ceremonies for many of these blessed events. It’s a rare and beautiful phenomenon with which this gang is blessed. We started our cruise with prayer in the ship’s chapel and commenced to enjoy 7 days of laughs, giggles, tears of joy and some “hold on to the rail” moments when the waves got rough at the end. But then again, isn’t that what best friends do? They’re there for the laughter, to wipe up the tears, and hold on to us with both hands when life’s sucker punches knock us to our knees. I thank God for these people. You know who you are.
As we were walking by one of the tourist traps in Mazatlan, I noticed that one of the shop keepers had a small green parrot in a cage. I also spotted that although the door was ajar, the bird didn’t dare try and fly away. Initially that struck me as rather odd, but then again, it shouldn’t. Why would it? The beautiful bird was being fed, it’s cage was clean and it knew that if it chose to leave, it may be wind up as lunch for a larger predator. Even though the parrot’s parents were nowhere in sight, it knew upon whom it could depend for protection, love and sustenance.
Interestingly, my husband and I also spent one restful afternoon watching a Netflix video on birds of the Serengeti. This summer we’re traveling to Kenya for a dental mission trip with Kaitlin and the Give Back to Humanity organization, so I’m preparing for the wildlife in which I’ll hopefully see. One of the birds that really intrigued me was the drongo bird. The video showed the development of a plot line worthy of a Shakespearean play. A drongo bird watches meerkats scavenge for food in groups. Rather than waste its precious energy following their example, it decides to wage a psychological war against them.
First, the bird gains the meerkat’s trust by warning them when an eagle approaches. But as soon as it’s secured their confidence, it uses it against them by sounding a false alarm and swooping in to eat the food they left behind in panic. What a piece of work! Oh, but the betrayal doesn’t end there. The meerkat’s confidence has been lost and the bird cannot fool them twice with the same trick. Instead, it employs an even more treacherous stunt by learning to imitate the warning call of the meerkat’s leader. With their catch lost and their pride hurt, the meerkats are left in a tragic state while the drongo bird enjoys its feast. Good grief.If you want a surefire way to teach your children about the unfair ways of the world, just have them google the life of the drongo bird.
It also makes for a good metaphor about friendships that are anything but sincere. As we get older, we hopefully are becoming more comfortable in our own skin, realizing the importance of having solid friends with whom we can be vulnerable, heard and truly known. Oh, but haven’t you also had friends or even family that end up being more like the drongo bird? They impersonate someone whom you think has your best interest at heart and just when you’re at peace about revealing your truest self, WHAM, your legs are taken out from under you. These “birds” try to take away your joy through passive aggressive comments, actions or an “oh my” or “bless your heart.” They are the type of individuals from which you should fly far far away. Sadly, after being hurt or betrayed by a friend, we often turn into someone much like the green parrot I saw in Mazatlan. Rather than take the chance of being betrayed, we often choose to stay put in an open cage, a cage that seems safer for our hearts, rather than the alternative. Never again, you tell yourself, will you allow yourself to be so vulnerable and trusting to another person.
But friend, I beg you to reconsider. Best friends with whom you can count on 100% are well worth the risk. When I moved to Taos, not only did I maintain my close friendship with a few good KY friends, but I met a few Christian women in Taos whom I now know would have my back at a moment’s notice and I’d do the same for them. They’ve cried with me, made sure I had a good meal when I was sick, and trusted me with their own secrets and fears. My “tribe” meets the definition I found in a dictionary today:
“A group of friends that becomes one’s family. The people that will be there for you no matter what and who you're guaranteed to have a good time with. Although other people outside the tribe may not understand the closeness of these relationships, it doesn't matter because the members all understand it and love one other.”
Perhaps you may be reading this and feel you don’t belong to such a tribe. Trust me, I’ve been there. We all have. It’s easy to have lots of superficial friends, but often, it’s just that: superficial. They may be there when the sailing is smooth, but then suddenly can’t be found when the waves start crashing. I’d not be writing my typical raw and real blog if I didn’t mention that we must question our own actionsin such situations and the part they play in our feeling of disconnectedness. If you lack a deep friendship with another person, one whom you can trust with your secrets, fears and vulnerabilities (and I’m not talking about your husband here), you may want to ask yourself this question: What is preventing me from having a such a special relationship with another human being?
Inward ponderings such as this can be difficult, but oh so vital if we are ever to become a compassionate person who is not only capable of giving love, but receiving it. Basically, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. However, we also shouldn’t overlook one key requirement that’s always associated: the allowing of ourselves to be vulnerable is always preceded by the willingness to stop blaming or shaming others and to own our own stuff.
We’ve all had situations where we yearn to blame others for wrong doing. Sometimes it’s deserved and sometimes it isn’t. Trust me, I get it. Some comments leave us shaking our heads in dismay, wondering how another human being could even arrive at such accusatory comments. Like the lady I actually heard make a comment about a sweet young girl who’d committed suicide, leaving behind several children. With one swift commentary, she brazenly commented that this troubled young woman “was acting out of pure selfishness and brought it all on herself.” Sadly, there are those kinds of people. They have few quality relationships, due to their lacking of core qualities like compassion and understanding. Blaming and finding fault is way easier than lowering your wall, taking risks and allowing others to see your tender side, warts and all. It takes a great amount of courage to admit our imperfections.
If you’ve ever struggled with depression and anxiety as I have, you may have found that some of the very individuals that lead to your suffering are the ones who need counseling themselves. But do take note: counseling is unlikely for such people, as they rarely ever admit to any wrong doing. So instead, many often swing to the opposite end of the spectrum. Rather than admit to being flawed and vulnerable, they do everything in their power to look perfect on the outside. They color within the lines, cross the t’s and dot the I’s. They play by the rules and keep almost everyone at arm’s length. Do you know individuals like this? I’m afraid I do and this type of living must be totally exhausting…and lonely.
To go back to our African animal analogy, perhaps we start out as an unassuming little meerkat, but after been fooled one too many times, we decide to switch roles and be like a drongo bird. It’s better to fake them out, outsmart the others, and feel you’ve always got the upper hand. Sadly, we all have committed Oscar-worthy performances of playing both roles. But at the end of the day, we all have to choose.
What type of bird are you? A predator who fakes people out and robs them of their trust? Or perhaps you’re that sad little parrot who always plays by the rules, stays on the safe side, and keeps everyone at a distance? Of what flock do you belong? Keep in mind that God created us to love others as His Son loved us. I want to be a friend like that. Upon arriving to New Mexico, I was determined to choose friends that were just as passionate as I was about the importance of being REAL. Like my readers, I don’t have time to go through the motions of having mere aquaintances in my life. I need the real deal. Don’t you? I need my flock to be by side and provide guidance and steer me in the right direction. I CHOOSE to be a member of a flock so that I’m allowed to be vulnerable and reap the blessings of helping others I dearly love. Such a symbiotic relationship allows us to be fulfilled in serving Christ Jesus.
It’s also, sweet sisters, how God works through us and allows amazing things to happen. I’ve experienced this first hand. I’m seeing it occur as I type these very words on my laptop.
I’m not sure if I’ll see parrots or drongo birds as I travel to Africa this summer, but there’s one thing I’m sure of: if I want to be the best example as a follower of Christ, I must let down my guard, be my true self and trust. I may lose possessions to people as selfish as the drongo, or have my trust tested and tried like a gullible meerkat, but there’s one winged creature I never hope to become: a parrot in an open cage.
What about you? It’s time we gather our courage, love others without reservation and call out our true friends. Take turns guiding and providing sustenance for one another. There’s never been a rule that says you have to have all the answers or that you can never ask for help. Emotional intelligence is knowing when to seek support from those we love. Tell those individuals in your life just how thankful you are to be in their flock.
And together, fly straight towards Jesus’s heart and maintain your focus. Only then, will you truly feel free as a bird.
Brightest of Blessings,