No matter how many miles I’ve gone on this trail, this first stretch is always my favorite. The first moment the seasons change, this is the part of the world I want to see first. The trees create this A shaped archway to walk/run/bike under. To be in it, is to feel a gentle embrace from creation along the way. Every time I pass through, it appears that the trees are holding each other up to create this beauty. It is enchanting to pass under these trees that stretch out to meet each other in the middle. Not a single tree could create this moment on its own. It’s all of them together, holding each other up, supporting each other, that creates a small moment of beauty for the passerby.
As a wife, mom, christian, member of planet Earth, there are more times than I wish to count when I wish someone would hold me up the way these trees do for each other. All it takes is one flu bug to go through the family for me to realize just how fragile I am in keeping my family alive, healthy, and with clean clothes to wear the next day. There’s a tiny story in Exodus that always reminds me of the people in my life that hold me up like these trees do. The ones that stretch out. just for us to hold the weight of the other. Exodus 17:8-16. Moses could not have done what God asked him to do, without the help of his brother and friend. As strong as he was as a spiritual leader, he could not stand there alone and do what he needed to do. He needed someone to hold up his arms. He needed someone to take the weight. He had the relationships, and the courage to accept help from them when he could not hold his arms up anymore. Don’t we all have those experiences? Not so much battling an army for our lives, but the need for someone to carry the load just to keep going once in a while. We all need an Aaron and a Hur in our life to hold our arms up. We don’t just need them to be around though. We need them to know. We need them to understand first that the load is heavy. We need them to be so involved and close in our life that when they see our arms aching from the weight of what God has asked us to take on, they are right there. Moses didn’t ask them to help him. He was standing there struggling under the task all on his own, and his friends just knew, and understood the weight of his struggle. They just knew.
When we first moved to this area, it was the first time I realized that not only did I need someone to hold my arms up once in a while, but that other than my husband, I didn’t have that option. As a stay at home Mom, there are no back ups to call when the chips are down. There are no subs, no sick days, no calling in late, no rescheduling of any kind. Everyday, no matter what, my kids need at the very least what we all need to survive. I found myself in desperate need of a friend. We moved here during late November. Just before the winter. Finding other stay at home Moms in the winter is like walking around with a metal detector on the beach in a sand storm. It’s darn near impossible unless under the perfect conditions. We are all at home! I started praying desperately for a friend. A true friend. Not someone I just got along with. Not someone that I met once in a while as we passed by. A real friend. Someone that saw the world the way I did. Someone that understood the pressures of staying home with children in a world that demands productivity and achievement just to have something worthwhile to talk about during small talk situations. Someone that had the maturity to talk about ideas and experiences rather than other people when we got together. And ideally, a believer. My prayers got pretty specific, but I was desperate. Ralph Emerson puts it like this
~“Friendship does not ask ‘do you love me?’
so much as ‘do you see the same truth?” ~
I found that to be so true of how I felt when asking for a friend. When I was praying, and waiting, and wanting, it didn’t so much matter that someone would come in and literally hold my arms up, help me take care of my family when it got hard, or even love me. I am married after all. My husband and I support each other, we care for each other, we love each other. I am loved by him and many people. I have the love of my parents, the love of my husband, and the love of my God. I wasn’t looking for love. I was looking for someone that saw the world the same way I did. That made close to the same decisions based on the same values and perceptions of the world around me. I was really asking for someone who ‘saw the same truth’ that I did.
Realizing this, changed the way I looked for friends, and changed the way I sought to be a friend. I had always looked at that Exodus passage wanting someone to hold my arms up and seeking out ways to hold others up as well. All I really needed was someone to sit next to me and say “Wow, I bet that’s really hard to hold your arms up. I’m holding the same weight and mine are tired too.” or “I’ve been in that situation, I know how heavy that can be.” Sure, sometimes it’s nice for someone to carry the weight for a little while, but truly, the load feels lighter just to have someone walk along with us while we carry it. Just to know, and understand.
I’ve read this experience to be labeled as ‘feeling felt.’ The book Anatomy of the Soul lays out the evidence for the transformation that occurs when a person ‘feels felt.’ When the soul of another recognizes the depths of our soul and responds with ‘yes, I understand that too.’ There is an actual change in brain chemistry when someone knows they are understood, and empathized with. I am no neuroscientist, so I will not attempt to summarize the specifics here, but the implications for the evidence are tremendous. It is the main tactic used to talk down a suicidal mind. It is the basis for all evidence in talk therapy. It is the foundational principle for someone listing another as a friend versus an acquaintance or relationship of convenience. The experience of feeling felt by another person is so powerful, and at its root, it is friendship. To walk along with another soul, seeing the world through a similar lens, understanding the other, and feeling understood. It is the fulfillment of a deep and arduous need. A need so severe that the lack of it can drive even the most joyful souls to bouts of depression. One of my favorite childhood book series, Anne of Green Gables, calls these people:
~ Kindred Spirits-someone whom
I can confide my innermost self.~
Kindred spirits fill this deep need in our souls because friendship is a choice. We do not have any other reason or connection for the relationship other than our choice to be a part of it. Our parents have a biological predetermination to love us. Our siblings, at the very least, have a familial obligation to love us. Our spouses, no matter how often they choose to love us, still have a romantic incentive to love us. Friendship is void of each of these motivations. There is no reason to love a friend other than choice.
~The knowledge of someone knowing
and loving us by choice is fulfilling in and of itself.
The root of human friendship.
The knowledge of someone knowing
and loving us by choice regardless of merit,
is divine fulfillment of the heart.~
That is Christ. That is what it is to realize we are known and loved by Christ. Divine friendship.
Christ loves our innermost self, because he created our innermost self. He is the ultimate source of empathy, because he has experienced the temptations and realities of humanity for himself. Every. Single. One. In Hebrews it writes “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. Instead, we have one who in every way has been tempted as we are, yet he never sinned.” Every way. The only source of true empathy comes when the person we are in relationship with has actually endured the same experience. Not necessarily the same circumstances, but the same foundational effects on our lives. That knowledge is what makes the load a little lighter. That’s what lifts our spirits enough to endure. That is the love of Christ holding up our arms. Day after day. Moment after moment.
If nature can hold each other up to create such beauty as these trees, can we hold each other up to create the beauty we know humanity is capable of? Can we allow the love of Christ to be the experience between us as we understand each other and seek to be understood? Can we allow Christ to love us, and take care of each portion of our innermost self, to be a true kindred spirit?
Consider the Word
Psalm 139 If there is ever a doubt as to who made us, we need only to turn to this Psalm to answer ourselves.
Matthew 10:29-30 I don’t even know the number of hairs on my own head, let alone the number of any one else. If we have a God that knows even the most seemingly unimportant tid bits of information about ourselves, can we trust him with the largest, most important influences in our life?
Questions/Reflections to Consider
Do you feel known by God? Do you feel his understanding for your life? Get into the Word. Anywhere. He will use it to show you his love for your personal moments.
Who are your kindred spirits? Take time to invest in these relationships. They are Christ’s love in our lives and absolutely necessary to our survival and joy. If you have not found one yet, look for that sign of ‘do you see the same truth?’ When you find someone that answers yes, invest in that relationship. Over time it will grow into the fulfillment we seek.
Do you allow yourself to be open to the depth of relationship necessary to be kindred spirit for another person? In what ways can you bring your walls down to enjoy the fulfillment that comes with that level of vulnerability?
When you are struggling do you lay down your pride enough to call on those that could hold your arms for a while? If not, why not?
“What’s a ship that will never sink?” A Friendship -Friends