Hello, secret rules...
I just finished reading a book by Jon Acuff called Finish. It is about finishing goals and so much more. It was a fantastic read. There was a chapter about cuckoo birds and secret rules we write for ourselves that end up killing our goals and dreams.
I started mapping out all my secret rules that I’ve written for my goals and my perfectionism (also tackled in the book) and then I realized that I had written so many secret rules for my friendships.
Rule #1 Friends will drop anything to be there for you.
Can’t you just see this on top of a sunset picture of friends laughing and being together. Clearly, the girl on the left dropped her husband, new job, and church obligations to help the girl on the right set up her classroom, right?
Also, the girl on the right never said that rule out loud. Hello, it is a SECRET rule. Plus, she didn’t even know it was a rule that applied to her.
Hi. I’m that girl.
I expected my best friend to be able to help me set up my first classroom, which was a very big and important deal to me. She had helped me pray about which school to choose and was so excited for me. So, in my mind, it was obvious that she would drop everything to spend a few hours helping me hand-letter everything under the sun for my room, right?! I mean, when we were in college she was able to make time. Plus, not only would my room look great from all her help, but I would get some best friend time without her pesky new husband being there.
She was newly married, had just started a new job after months of praying and searching, and her husband was a youth pastor who relied heavily on her to help with ministry things like student camp that was in a few weeks.
Needless to say, she did not drop everything. She agreed to letter things because she loved me and was excited to support me. But she was understandably exhausted, so she didn’t help me set up things in my room and we didn’t get the husband-free time together. She did create beautiful things for my room and I still use them to this day.
The rule was broken, and it seemed to have layers like an onion.
Rule #2 As her best friend, I have elevated status.
I mean, I get that the Bible says that when you get married you leave your mother and father and are joined together, but best friend isn’t listed. Clearly, I’m still her person. #greysreference
I still get late-night cookie parties, storytelling, and laugh-crying until 2 am. I still get to be the first call when things go bad or good. I still get to be the support system and have an elevated status in her life…at least until I get my own husband.
Then the rules can change.
After all, good friends move through the stages of life at the same pace.
Rule #3 No friend gets left behind.
I honestly never thought I would be the last in my friend groups to be married. I never thought my best friend would have a two-year-old and be expecting her second child. She wouldn’t leave me behind like that.
Only she did.
She married a great guy. They had a baby and they opened her home to a great teenager. If life was like Mario Cart, she basically lapped me four times while I’m trying to turn around but keep hitting the wall and bananas. Video games and dating are not my jam.
She didn’t wait for me. But she also didn’t leave me out.
I got to do life with her and her family. Her husband is like another brother and they have helped me move twice. I have a lot of crap to move. It was an act of love for them to help me. It was an act of love for her husband to let me come over every other week for dinner when they were first married.
My secret rules didn’t see it like that. My elevated status rule said I deserved it and was owed it because I was there first. Can’t you just see me sticking my tongue out and saying nan-nan-nana-booboo?! Because relationships are obviously all about competition. Someone has to win and someone has to lose, right? The really crazy part about this whole rule is that I actually think her husband is a great guy. I didn’t want him to lose. I just wanted to win and everyone to be happy.
The person who was losing was my best friend.
I know she felt the weight of my unspoken rules and she knew she wasn’t living up to them. I have a terrible poker face and wear every emotion on my face. Plus, she had her own secret rule book and I was breaking her rules right back. Lose, lose.
Thankfully, God was working my heart.
I walked out some of my rules even before I knew what to call them. I walked out what it might be like for her to drop everything to be there for me. It could’ve lead to her being even more exhausted from pouring out time and energy into my problems and situations.
I walked out what it could be like for me to keep my elevated status expectations. It could eventually hurt her marriage or cause a rift between me and her husband.
God humbled my heart and let me see the end of the path for my secret rules and it did not lead to me and best friend sitting on a beach laughing.
It lead to someone I love being exhausted, with a hurting marriage, and a tired heart.
That is 100% the opposite of what I wanted for my best friend. I stood beside her at her wedding, because I wanted to support her throughout her marriage, not just wear a pretty dress. All these rules also focus only on my perspective and left out all the grace, mercy, patience, and love that Jesus calls me to show to everyone, not just my best friend.
So I gave my expectations to the Lord. I repented for my pride, jealousy, and unrealistic expectations I had built for our friendship. I started to intentionally pray for her marriage. I started asking her how I could help. I puppy sat their brand new puppy. I stopped expecting her to have free time for me and instead looked for ways I could join her in her crazy busy life. I loved her by giving my time and doing.
From the outside, our friendship never changed much. The outside was never the problem.
Secret rules aren’t for the outside.
They are designed to build up walls on the inside.
I have no doubt in my mind that my relationship with my best friend is a God thing. I have seen the good that has come from our friendship. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that we have an enemy who is prowling around looking for someone to devour. So when that enemy sees a God-honoring, mission-focused, Bible-studying, and life-changing friendship, he is going to try to devour that really quickly.
Thankfully, I have shared my secret rules and worked hard to override them with forgiveness, love, grace, and mercy. She has given forgiveness, love, grace, and mercy right back. Four years and a lot of life later, we still aren’t sitting on a beach laughing. We are surrounded by her family sharing pizza and life together.