I check my watch.
My palms are clammy and I pretend to casually smooth my denim skirt in order to wipe off my sweaty hands.
I sip lemon water.
My heart races as I pick up the menu only to put it down again.
The vinyl seat sticks to me.
I shift in the booth and re-cross my legs. My foot begins to bob a mile a minute so I stop to uncross my legs and keep my feet flat on the floor.
I check my watch again. A minute has passed.
Drink more lemon water.
She was late. She usually was. My best friend finally entered and all I could feel was dread. I stood up to hug her stiffly. Could she see how anxious I was? Could she feel the tremor in my hands when I hugged her?
We sat at one of our favorite restaurants, trying to make polite small talk while scanning the menus. Usually we talk deeply about anything and everything but this time was different.
Butterflies in my tummy persisted and fear gripped my heart. I was getting ready to share something.
I was taking a risk. Hoping she could hear the love I have for her in my words and that our friendship would be strong enough to handle this conversation.
After placing our order with the waitress I turned to look my friend in the eye and somehow began the exchange I’d been avoiding.
I didn’t want to say anything to my friend. I wanted to ignore the problem. Yet, I knew if I didn’t speak up the issue would continue and my heart would grow not only increasingly frustrated, but bitter.
Trying to smooth things over by pretending the issues didn’t exist would be false. I couldn’t just “be nice” and hold my tongue.
Ephesians 4:25-27 says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
This clues us in on the importance of not keeping offences bottled up and how it is a good thing to remind our brothers and sisters how they can love others better … or love us better.
But the passage shows us the goal of these hard conversations: becoming like Christ individually and as a body. In verse 32 it says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Loving someone comes easier to me when it means encouraging, when I’m serving tea or when giving a gift. But confrontation ties me in knots. I’d rather curl up in a shell and die. But God doesn’t let me get away with “Christianity = Nice.”
I mechanically swallow my food. Holding back tears, I tell my friend how much I love her and how I want the best for her. Because those things are true, I need to share some concerns.
Loving her, truly loving her, meant being honest and speaking things that were uncomfortable. It meant taking a risk to tell her things she needed to hear.
This talk with my friend was pivotal. It was a catalyst that sparked so much change in her. And change in me.
Thankfully, I received a gift unguaranteed in these situations. My friend responded so graciously, so humbly. We shed tears and our friendship was strengthened.
Loving our neighbor means telling them the truth and being tenderhearted and quick to forgive, even as Christ forgave us.
Loving a friend enough to confront isn’t the same as a program of brutal-whole-truth-or-nothing. Nor is it warrant to be unkind and rude. It is in fact the opposite: It is being kind by telling the truth, which is especially hard if you fear rocking the boat.
Sometimes the kind thing is to forbear with someone’s offenses or flaws. But there are those times when the loving thing is to say the hard things. Loving does not always mean being “nice.” Love is about becoming more like God in Christ. It requires dying and pain, suffering and difficult conversations. But ultimately joy.