For heaven sakes, this place could use some paint.

The hospital hallway stretched out ahead, long and sterile. Whoever thought gray and white appropriate colors for the sick and suffering clearly hadn’t thought the thing through. If I’d felt optimistic when I arrived, the oppressive aura sucked the good vibes right out of me.

As if the absence of color wasn’t bad enough, the only sound to keep us company as we followed the nurse to the surgery ward was the soft pad-pad-pad of my slip-on shoes. It seemed eery, that heavy silence, as if something unexpected waited for me up ahead.

It did.

We turned the last corner, only to be met by another long stretch of hallway. This time, however, a person occupied a chair at the opposite end.

Who…?

It took seconds for me to recognize the form of the other woman. The moment I did, I started running.

“You came!” I shouted, as we met in the middle of all that gray and white.

She threw both arms around me, laughed and shouted in return. “Of course I came! Who would miss this?!?!”

We jumped up and down, two women hugging and turning in circles like little girls.

“I take it you know each other?” The nurse smirked as she caught up to our ridiculousness. We were like sisters reunited after years of separation. Truth is we’d seen each other just the week before. But this was a hard day, surgery day. And she came. My friend. The one who prays mountain-moving prayers. The one whose laughter fills up my gray days with the colors of her life. And just like that, the aloneness and afraid-ness dissolved.

It’s been months since that day in the hospital hallway. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about relationships. Perhaps it’s the intensity of 2014, the way crises and celebrations have lined up one right after the other. I’ve needed to lean on people this year more than any other. Or perhaps it’s middle age, the way my older self now craves intimacy and closeness like air.

Regardless of the whys, one truth has become stark in its clarity: I’ve grown lazy at relationship. We all have. At times we do it well, no doubt. But I’m convinced we’ve lost our edge. In this world of constant, automated connectedness, we’ve forgotten that true connection takes work. We’ve become long, sterile hallways, lacking the colors and sounds of deeper relationship.

In her book Lean On Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable, and Consistent Community, author Anne Marie Miller says these simple words:

Lean On Me, by Anne Marie Miller

Lean On Me, by Anne Marie Miller

Like a friend showing up at the opposite end of a hospital hallway.

The hard fact is your hospital day is coming. Whether literal or figurative, you’re going to end up somewhere you never expected. And when you do, you’ll need someone sitting in the chair at the opposite end of the hallway, someone you can lean on. This is what it takes:

Commitment. It’s appalling how fickle we’ve become, how selfish. We’re so easily offended, so quick to throw up our hands and walk away. In a world of instant satisfaction, we want microwaveable relationships, the kind that give us what we want with little personal investment. It doesn’t work that way. Relationship takes effort, grace, and TIME. Proverbs 18:24 says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” That’s the kind of friend I need, the kind of friend I want to be.

Vulnerability. Just reading the word jolts my heart. It’s risky, isn’t it? Sharing your most secret self, risking ridicule and rejection, perhaps even ending up alone? But intimacy can’t flourish without vulnerability. Like soil must receive the seed, the only way to experience the full bloom of relationship is to dare to open ourselves up. Not flippantly or foolishy, but wise vulnerability with those equally willing.

Need someone to lean on? Desperate for the warmth of color in this often gray-and-white life? Determine to be committed. Dare to be vulnerable. Stop settling for superficial, microwaveable relationships and instead nurture a garden of the lasting, leaning kind.

The kind that sprints down the hospital hallway to laugh and dance circles together.

Which is the most challenging for you: commitment or vulnerability? Why? 

[callout]BOOK GIVEAWAY: Today I’m giving away FOUR copies of Anne Marie Miller’s book, Lean On Me, two each to two different blog readers. The reason? I want you to read it with a friend, together. It might be the beginning of a more beautiful relationship. To enter, answer the above question in the comments. And then let us know who you hope to share the book with. The winner will be announced on Wednesday!

11/5/14 UPDATE: We have a winner—TWO of them! Congratulations to NINA BLEVINS and MICHELLE LYNN SENTERS on winning 2 copies of Anne Marie Miller’s Lean On Me! Enjoy reading with a friend, and make sure you circle back here and let us know how it goes. Three cheers for friendship! xoxo [/callout]

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