Updated: Feb 14
FLAW- Shrinking Places
LAW- Wide Open Spaces
When we first bought our house, my husband and I noticed that oddly, there seemed to be no storage space, but we reasoned our perception was probably a little skewed since our old house had storage rooms bigger than bedrooms. Surely when we moved in, we would find all the nooks and crannies that would be big enough to fit extra bedrooms and pantry cellars for the apocalypse.
Turns out our perception was just fine. The nooks in this house hold one suitcase and the crannies fit a broom. Forget the end-of-the-world armory.
In the first few months of living here, he and I would convene in our bathroom like two aerospace engineers (minus an aerospace engineer’s budget) to plan our cabinet designs for the blank walls. We designed shelving for all the things, and then some! We couldn’t be stopped.
But gradually, as tends to happen with ideas, we stopped thinking and talking about them altogether to deal with more pressing matters, while silently adjusting to our new, cabinet-deficient, no-place-to-keep-the-towels way of life.
Actually, I had forgotten about all of our plans until recently, when I caught myself (actually, my back caught me) crouched and sprawled in 50 unseemly positions, not doing anything more exciting than trying to reach the toilet paper, which was stacked in the only place I could find to put it— past piles of sketchy makeup, homemade beauty concoctions, and entire hair product lines underneath my two teenage daughters’ bathroom sinks.
Incidentally, this is an area of bio hazardous proportions that no self-respecting mother should ever have to venture into as a civilian, especially until the teenagers have moved out and the fumigators have been called in, and certainly never as frequently as once a week to fish out toilet paper.
Bent over and contorted after a successful expedition (if you could call it that), I crawled across the hall to my own bedroom floor and plopped over like a seal to stare at the ceiling while I waited on my back to work again, and that’s when I saw the metaphor: the plans and possibilities in the beginning; the distractions that come along to make us forget; and the reduction and contorting of our present circumstances to accommodate the shrunken spaces of our lives.
To fit into.
The shrunken spaces.
To shrink means to move back or away, especially because of fear or disgust; to make smaller in size or amount.
As women, I think we can all identify with moving away from certain spaces out of fear, forgetfulness, shame, hurt, feelings of inadequacy, and so many other reasons, to fit inside the smaller places where we feel more in control, accepted, safe, and successful. In essence, we inadvertently make ourselves and our world smaller so that things are manageable, hard things are kept at a safe distance, and everyone around us is happy, which in turn makes us feel like we’re doing pretty well.
Remembering plans of how we wanted things to be can sometimes be painful: how we wanted to be better moms, have a happier marriage or a different career, or maybe we wish we had taken a different path altogether and now it’s too late. We think, “Why should I deserve a different way or fresh start? I made my bed and now I have to lie in it,” and the only way to do that is to take more and more territory away from ourselves or allow life to take it for us.
Given its way, life will always oblige us in that area. While life can be giving and fun and beautiful, it can also be darn well greedy. All of us know what it’s like to have something taken from us that wasn’t our choice to give.
But let me ask you, if one of your kids came to you with those same thoughts above, would you say to them, “Yep, no changing anything now! Your path is your path, no matter how you got there, and now you have to walk it forever!”
Of course you wouldn’t! And neither does the Lord say that to us. In fact, He says His mercies are new every morning. He gives us fresh starts all the time. Maybe it’s time we started talking to ourselves (and each other) the way God talks to us.
You are allowed mess-ups, false starts, paths that shouldn’t have been taken, a messy marriage, kids who aren’t perfect, and a regathering and remembering of yourself that can put you on a new path forward. You are allowed to lie face-up, remembering the “cabinets” and designing them again, no matter how many years have gone by. That’s what life is about—the fluidity of change and rethinking, of the stagnant and still opening up to the flow of the waters again.
And I don’t know any better place to feel and reacclimate to the rhythm of the waters again than beside a true friend.
The right friendships in our lives help us to process our lives and all the forgottens. They cause us to stand up and out, to fully expand into all the spaces we started out wanting to go. They remind us, push us, build with us, and challenge our self-governing and self-limiting borders without reminding us of all the reasons we can’t or shouldn’t.
In fact, a best friend will say that all those reasons are exactly why you should, and then she’ll be right there beside you when everyone else had something better to do. To her, you are the better thing.
When Tabatha and I had our Best Friend Blow-Up, things got really calm in my world. She would say the same, though for different reasons and in different ways. On my side of the waters, I settled into the rhythm of life: work, making dinner, saying hi to my teens during the rare moments they came out of their rooms like vampires, spending time with my husband, and focusing on other relationships. I wrote when I wanted, talked on the phone when it was convenient, and didn’t think about anything that wasn’t.
As soon as we reunited, my waters got stirred! The doors flung open again to whirlwinds of creativity (hers!), writing when I didn’t feel like it, exchanging daily text threads the length of novels, fixing parts of myself that hadn’t emerged without someone rubbing against me that closely, and picking up things I had put down when she wasn’t around.
I wasn’t floating the Lazy River anymore. And even though we had some healing to do, our lives got their motion back, so much so that we could feel the rhythms of grace rocking, surprising, and reminding us of old and new things, and especially those things we could only remember together.
If we had shrunk away from this precious place of Friendship—even though both of us had good reason to— we would be missing so much.
One of the beautiful consequences of Friendship that sometimes we don’t appreciate is that the right ones make us alive and challenge us to live. They inspire us to be better because someone else is depending on us outside of the normal routines of life. They give us new conversations and follow-up on the old ones. They ask about our “cabinets” and push until the installation is complete. They get us out of the Lazy Rivers and into the active waters.
In our case, it might look like tying our rafts together while we float close enough to touch, and then every once in a while, reaching over and pushing the other one off, just because we think it’s funny.
The point is, friendship expands our capacity to increase and grow in ways that without it we forget or can't see anymore. It’s a conversation that never runs out of things to say, and it keeps our lives flowing in the holy waters of movement and grace.
Tabatha sums it up perfectly when she says that the Fun of Friendship means to her:
We are never finished in life, unless we decide that shrinking is living. Then we are kind of finished. I lived that way apart from my friend for a while, and let me tell you something, friend, that’s not living.
Today and this week, we’re celebrating the way Friendship expands our lives and keeps us alive… to fill and feel the joys of life rediscovered and reimagined, so that we finish up never.
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