“What do you need most right now?”

Four close friends sat across the table. We’d finished an incredible lunch, almost Thanksgiving-like, followed by dark chocolate squares for dessert. Friendship and good food. What else could a girl possibly need?

Only I knew better. With in moments of gathering, we dove deep, fast. One revealed a health crisis. Another, a marriage in jeopardy. Others agonized over parenting challenges, career disappointments, and various other unknowns and sources of angst. We all had “something” that kept us awake at night.

But there we were, together. A gift. It’d be months before we found our way back to a table. So, before we left, I asked one more question.

“What do you need most right now?”

Silence. For the first time, our chatty lunch hushed to near silence as we thought of the one thing we needed most amongst so many needs. One at a time, we answered.

“Cheerleading,” said the first. Then another, “Connection.” Two more followed, adding “Discernment” and “Encouragement” to the list. Such worthy needs, important. Then, my turn.

“Bubble wrap.”

More silence. Like you, they didn’t understand. So I explained.

For most my life I’ve prided myself on crossed-off to-do lists. Order and responsibility make me feel worthy, as do hard work and fulfilled commitments.

Then life happened. And although sweet and good in many ways, everything changed in a moment. As a result, there’s fall out. Loads of it.

Phone calls aren’t returned. Emails and texts pile up unanswered. To-do’s end up lost and forgotten. Appointments are missed. Promises of coffee dates and get-togethers with friends remain unfulfilled. My orderly, everything-in-its-place, task-driven self has been replaced by a disconnected, forgetful, chronically late, overwhelmed (often snappy) imposter. Every day I feel like I’m letting someone down. Often, I am.

So what do I need most?

Bubble wrap.

A thick, cushion of grace for the many ways I misstep.

My friends smiled and nodded across the table. “We can do bubble wrap.” And with that, I sank deep into the assurance of friendship.

This is how grace transforms relationships. It reassures each member they are known and loved deeply, in spite of any lackings. It creates safety, builds trust, and infuses strength.

I need all of the above. So do you.

We all need to know a generous cushion surrounds us, and that when we stumble, our relationships won’t break. That when we’re late, forgetful, insensitive, unresponsive, or wake up grouchy and bare our teeth at everything that moves, our truest friends will look beyond the growl to the true heart within.ย 

It’s called grace.

I need it more than I can say. But for all my desire to receive it, I’m stingy in giving it. Even to the people across the table.

Can I be bold? Can I say something straight, in this bubble-wrap place, with you knowing I’m telling myself as much as I am you?

We’re far too easily offended.

Too easily ticked off, too easily wounded, too easily tempted to abandon relationship the moment it disappoints.

And we need to knock it off.

Because if we really want the relationships we say we do, we must let some things go.

Relationship, in it’s most beautiful, grace-full form, demands we refuse our emotional, knee-jerk reactions to the ordinary missteps and failures of others. Instead, we don bubble-wrap, and become people bent on buoying others with grace.

How? Well, it isn’t easy. We’re well-trained in reactions and retaliations. But you and I can start here:

  • Give the benefit of the doubt.
  • Be slow to take things personal.
  • Refuse to make everything about you.
  • Assume the best, not the worst.
  • Look beyond the external to what you know is true of her heart.
  • Let the little stuff go. Sometimes the big stuff, too.

Bubble wrap, baby. It’s how you and I continue to cheer and celebrate and encourage each other, in spite of the missteps.

What can you do to be bubble wrap to someone today?

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