Meeting new friends
Recently the husband sent a text. His crew at work was having a barbecue for their families and would I please come with him?
Oh, the excitement! The way he asked almost sounded like a date, plus I was going to meet his oilfield coworkers and their wives. Now for the few of you who just spit coffee out your noses, stop it. I moved from Montana to Wyoming. It’s the state directly south. The city I moved to has the same population. What could be that much different just because of a state line? Right?
Well. First of all, none of them were married, but they did have females with them that they called “girl”friends. I refuse to take that out of quotes, and you’ll soon see why. Second, in the state directly north of us, there are cows and wheat. Here there are oil wells. Don’t think for two seconds that they are the same at all. You see, with cows and wheat, you get out of bed before sunrise and work all day, all the while being NICE to people you come across in your processes. And the people who don’t have cows and wheat work in the city (if they can find a job) and also are nice.
I have yet to see a cow in my new state of residence. Or a head of wheat. Instead, I see lots and lots of Bedazzled women because the men who are home are sleeping because they just finished their thirteenth 16-hour shift in a place that’s not on a map. This isn’t consistent, though. About a third of the women have their husbands with them in public to carry the baby and the shopping bags. You always can tell the oilfield workers because their eyes are dead and they’re at the mall at 11 a.m. I would like to take this opportunity to tell these men’s wives or girlfriends that what they are doing is cruel and selfish. Stop dragging the guy who works 100 hours a week to the stupid mall every day. It’s mean, and he’d rather watch the kids while you go by yourself, I’m almost positive.
Turns out, though, not only men work in the oilfield. There are a couple of women out there as well. If you are one of those women, stop reading this now unless you do not plan on punching me in the face when I’ve offended you (I am afraid of you, but only in the physical sense). I have turned this over in my mind extensively, and I can’t fathom why on earth a woman would want to work in the environment that up until the barbecue I had only heard was somewhat challenging for even a moderately decent man to work in. You may think you have what it takes, but I’m sorry to say that if you do, you also probably have no right to be called a lady at any time. Ever.
Now I don’t want to come across as completely judgmental, but I quit swearing several years ago (this was an entertaining habit to break, and I think there may be few people in my life who are as offended by the word “Halibut!!” as by the word it replaced), and I tend to wince when I hear vulgar language, especially from a female. I understand the culture here is a tad different, but Emily Post was not banned in Wyoming and neither was Proverbs 31. At the very least, Martha Stewart can be consulted by the women who are offended by the goodie-goodie nature of everyone else. Martha has a rap sheet, and therefore can’t be considered pretentious anymore. After a couple of discussions where I really learned what “darkness cannot abide where there is light” meant, I felt like curling up in a shower stall and rocking back and forth. And believe me, that’s saying a lot because I’m not easily shocked.
Needless to say, I have no plans to develop long-standing bonds with those people in spite of the endless entertainment value it would provide, not to mention the writing material.
Bonds have formed, however, in other areas. I can think of several people with whom I’ve connected and feel a similar yoking. Those connections, still in their infancy, will be tested. As I wrote previously in a more serious day (yesterday), I know what the Lord has shown me. I asked Him to show it to me. As much as I want to close my eyes and ignore the truth, I see it. The people in my life who know me well also know that one of the most triumphant things for me is conviction. On Sunday morning, when the pastor asks, “Who likes conviction,” I discover that my hand often is the only one raised. What happens here, though, is that I, feeling the pain of conviction, also can sense that overwhelming sense of necessity and growth that, if accepted properly, will free and renew. As a result, I tend to search for my fallibility in situations. I think in terms of what I’m doing wrong first. Maybe I’m not tolerant enough. Maybe I just come across as cold. Maybe I’m over thinking this.
But when I’ve asked the Lord to “show me” what I am supposed to see, and He does just that, and it breaks my heart because I am tolerant, and warm, and clear, I am uncomfortable. I want to attribute what I see to flaws in my vision. And that is where conviction sets in for me, Hallelujah. My fear to see the truth comes from my fear of breaking fragile bonds. If you don’t want to go deeper, stop reading now.
It occurred to me exactly where I took that wrong step, the one where I developed the fear and doubt to act and speak in the way the Spirit was guiding me. It was when I placed fellowship on a pedestal. When I began seeing my friendships as things that were conditional on my conformity. The word “bond” is not referred to often in a favorable light in Scripture. True, there is a bond of peace, but bonds are typically the opposite of what makes us free. I placed myself in bondage when I worried about losing fellowship.
Fellowship, which is admittedly important, is not the rock on which our freedom was founded. My freedom was founded and should remain grounded in the truth that Jesus, the Lord’s only begotten son, was given to me as a gift to loose me from the bonds that held me to the law. And the law led to death. Romans 5:20-21 says, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I will say it again. The Pharisees are alive and well. To be tied down by a worry that friendships will end because of truth is as ridiculous as thinking that the friendship was ever real in the first place. If conditions are installed to prevent me from speaking the truth, in love, then I am guilty of quenching the Spirit. If I’ve lost friendship for exercising a gift of that same Spirit, then I’ve broken a bond. And I no longer see that as a bad thing.