Yes. This is about Chicago. But also, it’s not.
Five years ago I took my first summer trip to Chicago as an adult. I have to caveat that because I went as a teen for a softball tournament and fell in love with the city, but my parents were with me, so I was limited on the shenanigans I could get into.
I went with two dear friends and we had a fantastic time – 2 nights, 3 days right on Lake Shore Drive, eating pizza, seeing comedy shows, and delighting in the company of one another. It’s truly one of the dearest memories I have in traveling with friends.
This week, I went back for my first summer trip since then. I love Chi-town and have been many times, but for whatever reason I’ve chosen the cold months to visit throughout these five years. As I got off the train and started walking around, my mind began to wade through the last five years (which also happens to be the name of the saddest/best musical movie starring Anna Kendrick that my friend watched and told me I was horrible for recommending. Seriously. It’s sad.)
The last five years.
I began to think about the friends I was with in 2014 and how we have since had a pretty major friend breakup.
I only have my side of the story, and I’m not going to share that with everyone. But the truth of the matter is, there was a tremendous ripping apart between us. We all played a role in the ripping. I will own my part in that hurt. But it was a breakup that I never saw coming because it was with friends. The ripping apart was hard. But that doesn’t take away what those friends meant to me in that season.
This past February, author and podcaster Annie F. Downs spoke at IF:Gathering on this exact topic. Her talk, What Happens When People Let You Down? (can be found on RightNow Media), spoke about the heartbreak of breakups – how when a breakup happens, you lose the future you thought you were going to have. But we don’t talk about losing the future with friends. So, in the way that only Annie can, she did.
And she gutted me with this line: “Losing a friendship feels like a ripping when that friend becomes and idol.”
And ultimately, that’s what I had let happen in my past friendships. They become my idol. The relationship itself became an idol. They were the thing that kept me safe and secure.
This time around, I went by myself.
I sent this picture to my mom so she knew I was safe, but as I looked at it – at me – I saw someone who is just way more settled into the fact that nothing outside of Jesus can satisfy, save, or secure her. 2014 Kayla was grasping for straws when it came to security, love, being known.
2019 Kayla knows she is secure, loved, and known in Christ.
I don’t have it all worked out, but I’m comfortable with knowing that God is working it out.
And now, as Annie also said, my friendships work because I don’t ask them to be my God. I just ask them to be my friend. With God as my closest friend, all other friends are a delightful gift.
And that they are. As I took inventory of my friends on Ohio Street Beach, I (surprise) got emotional. Overwhelmingly thankful that God has seen fit to give me Himself with flesh on in the form of my friends. And has given me the gift of Himself, so that I don’t have to grasp for and impress people that will let me down.