But I thought you were my friend. I swiveled my office chair so I could stare out the window, my thoughts far away. Sitting back, I closed my eyes and could envision my pink tennis shoes under my desk at work, my jeans and T-shirt in the closet. I’d bring them often, ready for the end of the day when my friend and I would go outside and briskly exercise. We’d talk about our day while I huffed and she glided effortlessly along. She was always in better shape than I was. We hadn’t done that enough.
Then an issue arose, loyalties were divided, and our friendship was severed. Even though we didn’t see each other anymore, I had sent one last e-mail. “I don’t know if you would consider me a friend after today. . . . If, however, there’s some part of you that is willing to reach out, I’d be happy. . . . YOU are valuable as my friend. Always know that. Always.”
Leadership is lonely. But I’d never experienced it myself.
A response never came.
The days, weeks, months slipped by, yet the ache in my heart persisted. So much of what I knew, believed, and trusted in my friend turned out to be a lie. How could I have missed that?
A knock on my door brought me back to reality. I opened my eyes and focused on the person coming in. It was a guest, someone I hadn’t met before. As the person greeted me with exuberance, I smiled. “Oh, Jill, I’m so glad to finally meet you. I just know we’re going to be friends.” I shook the person’s hand and invited them to sit, politely listening as they told me about their ministry. What did they want? Was it friendship, or simply position, power, and a platform?
I’ve heard it said that leadership is lonely. But I’d never experienced it myself. Until now. Whom can I trust? If I open up, will I come to regret that later? How do I know it’s for real or if I’m just being used?
My mind travels to Jesus, our ultimate friend. In the garden, just before the cross, He called Judas “Friend” (see Matt. 26:50). Really? The man who was going to betray Him? Didn’t Jesus know that? Of course He did, because He told the other disciples about it at the Last Supper. That thought keeps my mind going awhile.
The more I consider it, the more I’m convinced: I don’t want to become cynical, to close off for fear of being hurt. My job is to extend grace, to be honest and transparent, to reach out and love. Regardless of the consequences, regardless of the other person’s motives, regardless of the possibility of hurt. It takes an open heart, a willingness to learn, and the spirit of Jesus.
God, make me a friend to others.
Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.