heart and blood on wooden background, medical symbol concept




We met under a street light and started talking about everything . . . the war between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, the Pope, the South (in the 1970’s), boys (in the 1970’s), Jesus, and the strange soup that they served in the Dining Common that married the unlikely flavors of okra, spaghetti, and spam? Holly and I became best friends in less than 10 minutes and just knew that we would be in one another’s lives forever. We graduated from college, got married, had children . . . . and life got in the way and our friendship faded. The fading of intense relationships is inevitable, but maybe that’s why, in our culture today, so many of us have so few friends. A study by the University of Chicago found that most adult women in America have 2 close friends, and most men? 0. Yes, zero.

The words of a song that I love, tell the truth about the confusion and agony of something so deliciously wonderful fading to something so bland with no flavor, or worse – with a toxic taste that makes you gag, choke, and purge – determined to never be tempted by that taste again:

A woman calls my house once a week, she’s always selling things.
Some charity, a phone plan, a subscription to a magazine.
And as I turned her down (I always do), there was something trembling in her voice.
I said, ‘hey what troubles you?’
She said, ‘I’m surprised you noticed.
Well, my husband, he’s leaving, and I can’t convince him to stay.
And he’ll take our daughter with him, she wants to go with him anyway.
I’m sorry I’m hard to live with, but living is the problem for me.
I’m selling people things they don’t want when I don’t know what they need.”

She said, ‘the slow fade of love,
And it’s mist might choke you.
It’s my gradual descent into a life I never meant.
It’s the slow fade of love.’

Some of you might be just about ready to click off this blog. How depressing! . . . but perhaps your finger is lingering a little longer on the delete button because you’ve felt it too – those friendships or marriages or children who fade away, leaving us to wonder if relationships are all that they’re cracked up to be; and maybe we wouldn’t want to see those long-lost friends anyway, because we’re living in a life we never meant to be.

Love Fades In and Out and Back In Again


The friend I met under the street light in college actually faded back into my life about ten years ago. We had travelled very different paths, had different preferences, and quickly learned that we had a few different perspectives. Somehow I choked out part of my story – that I was now divorced, recovering from alcoholism; and as if I hadn’t already felt like I was too much – I showed my college friend one of my tattoos.tattoo

It took more than ten minutes this time, but it wasn’t long before we were once again talking about everything – our marriages, our children, heartaches, Jesus, and whether we colored our hair. We kept in contact from then on and our differences began to stretch our imagination about what God might be up to. Our differences gave us room to change our minds. Our differences ended up revealing that we weren’t so different after all – we still longed for friendships that redeemed the empty places, that offered solace for inexplicable betrayals, that pushed us to be a little more radical in our old age (Holly could get a tattoo and I could consider to possibly think about starting to run again). More than anything we still want to believe in redemption – that the slow fade of love that hurts so many relationships and leaves people so lonely and afraid of love can be redeemed. Radically.

Last week we finished taping 10 video casts of “Conversations” between us about what we’ve learned from our friendship. We are calling these conversations Radically Redemptive Relationships (): Two Women With Different Stories Who Find Common Ground For Love’s Sake.  In a few weeks my friend, Holly Stratton, and I will begin to post these conversations. Conversations that include:
* Radically Redemptive Relationships? You’ve Got to Be Crazy!
*Into Me See – It Takes a Braveheart
*Scandalous Relationships – Do We Need to Breathe Fire or Dare We Breathe Love?
*Stay Skinny or Stay Hungry? (my daughter, who has eight tattoos, joins us for this conversation)
*Married to the Best Man and He Still Ain’t Good Enough
*What’s Wrong With Me if I’m Still Single?
*Why Should I Surrender When I’m Right?
*Life Hurts
*Betrayal – Humble Hearts & High Heels

I’m not going to say anymore about these programs here. We will post them over the new several weeks on our blogs (lifehurts.us and sharonhersh.com/musings) and on Facebook.

The R³ Challenge

I hope that you might start to imagine with us what it could be like to start a movement to redeem love that has faded or is fading . . . . with a friend, spouse, sibling, a child, or the person you used to sit next to every week at church. When we stop focusing on differences, the possibilities are endless!  What if you sent a text or a mailed a card via the US Postal Service with an actual stamp on it to someone, that for some reason, you lost touch with some time ago? Can you think about apologizing or forgiving someone in a broken relationship (do you even remember what actually happened?)? Just think about giving a gift to a completely unexpecting friend who you’ve lost touch with for whatever reason – simply because at one time they were a friend! Email your middle school teacher, your old youth leader, an even older professor, or the person who always smiled at you in the hallway at work and tell them; “Thank you. You made a difference!” Sometimes love fades, because we take our friends and family for granted. What if tomorrow is the last chance you have to tell them something? What would you say? And sometimes love fades because of wounds that are still oozing with pain that feel like they will never heal. What do you think would happen to you if you prayed for these traitor friends/lovers? You don’t have to say words – the best prayer is simply a posture.desperate prayer

I Have Friends in High and Low Places

I don’t think that I’m a very good friend, but I have been blessed with good friends who have prepared my heart, so quick to harden, while I clench my fist and whisper under my breath the favorite Christian female “F” word – “Fine, I don’t need you anyway.” My heart is actually crying out, “Please don’t leave me. I’m scared to need you, but I do.”

I want to start the R³ Challenge by sharing words that friends and family have said or written to me that have challenged me, humbled and humiliated me, loved me, been honest with me, chosen not to be honest because I was just so broken, said good-bye to me, asked to see me again . . . . all their words reminded me that this longing that God has created in all of us – at a cellular level – to be known, forgiven, loved, and still wanted – it’s holy.  Our human longings may choke us with unbearable pain; they may lead us to glimpses of glory in one another; and they will fade.  But that doesn’t mean that we should forget.

My friend, Jim, with eyes brimming with tears or delight always reminds: ‘It sure doesn’t seem like it; but Sharon, God only writes good stories.”

My dear friend’s son, whose brain is ravaged by schizophrenia, used to see me for counseling. For some reason he became afraid of me and our time together faded. I will never forget the day that this young man sat in my office, tapping his fingers in codes that only made sense to him. I had just received a painful letter and my mouth was parched, my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, and I was biting my lip to hold back the tears. Kyle could tell that I was sad and he said with the most genuine heart, “I’m sorry.” I tried to gather myself and told him that I had just received some very painful words from a friend. He looked at me with his sparkling blue eyes that were as lucent as I’d ever seen them. He said, “It’s okay. Love will win.”

My friend Lori, who has known years of traitor love, concludes her letters with her deepest plea; “God, help me to be loved by you, so that I can truly love others.

Zach texts it, says it, signs his emails with it – and he means it; “It’s sure a good think that it’s all about grace.”

My friends William & Dana are always there. Sometimes they say beautiful, encouraging words. Other times they give me eggs or honey or they ask me if I want to visit with their turkeys. (I think that’s a hint that they don’t need me to say a darn thing.) They just love me – almost as much as their turkeys!turkeys

I am learning that all the faded love that is intended to break our hearts, to announce our differences, to stab daggers in our backs, and make us determined to never want again — not to want anything real. It is safer to talk about Dancing With the Stars, or all of the dogmas of “us” vs. “them,” or listen to those who agree with us – or at the very least are polite enough not to disagree – than to remain humble, needy, vulnerable, and even desperate for those simple, oft-repeated phrases or just an invitation to stay for a while.

Working on this project with my friend of old and of new, Holly, has reminded me of these words and many more from friends who haven’t faded, even when the friendships did. Friendships don’t always fade because of painful realities. It’s inevitable that they may fade as we set off in different directions in life; but I hope that some of these words from my friends will remind you of a few friends that you might want to call and tell them that you still think of them and that you wouldn’t mind the extravagant comfort of just sitting among friends who love you – even while their turkeys wander in and out.

I Have Friends Whose Names I Don’t Know

Not all of the “friends” I remember said things that I loved hearing.

When I was a freshman in college I needed to register for a class and the line was long. Well, I was in a hurry and didn’t think anyone in that long line would mind if I just walked right up to the front to get the attention of the woman behind the counter. This friend, whose name I never knew, said words to me that I have never forgotten, “You aren’t any more important than anyone else in this line. Take your place at the end.” I never barged to the front of a line again (well, maybe once).

Speaking of Holly, when I was in her wedding I met her sister – a beautiful young woman who knew a lot more about fashion than I did. I don’t think I’d even thought of that as a category at that time. She took one look at me and ran to get her makeup magic. She said “Sweetie, you have thin lips. You should always wear lipstick.” And ever since that day, I’ve tried.

I will never forget the summer day that my 18-year-old daughter and I visited one of my famous friends. I had on my lipstick and tried to remember to have a humble heart. My daughter explained to him that she had been trying to get into the college of her dreams and had not yet been accepted. She looked at my famous friend who has written best-selling Christian books and announced, “I think God is a dumb-ass to not let me get into this college.” I wanted to hide. I wanted to pretend I had somehow arrived with some other mother’s daughter. My friend covered his face with his hands and then he looked at us. I was waiting for judgment and I did not understand the sparkle in his eyes as he told us the Good News. He said, “Oh, He must be to have anything to do with any of us!”

When I became more important in life, I was flying to Little Rock, Arkansas to be on a radio program. I needed to be there at 10:00 a.m. sharp! Unfortunately, my connecting flight in Charlotte, North Carolina was delayed and then cancelled due to thunderstorms. There was one more flight scheduled to go out late that night; but there where two plane-loads of people trying to get on that one flight. Those of us who had been cancelled were placed on a waiting list, and my name was at the bottom. I plopped down in the middle of the floor and started to cry. I knew better than to try to get to the front of the line, but I still knew in my heart that I had a more important mission than all those other people. A young woman who looked to be about 18 sat down on the floor across from me with her legs crossed and she looked at me. She had a mission too – the kind that doesn’t fade away. I brushed away my tears and mascara and the lipstick from my thin lips. She handed me her boarding pass. She had a seat on the flight and said to me, “I don’t know why you need to be on this flight, but you can have my boarding pass and I’ll take your’s.” My trembling hands took her pass and I gathered my belongings and limped onto the plane. It wasn’t until I sat down and looked at the boarding pass that I read this friend’s name. It was Grace.

Family Members Are Friends Too

I haven’t been a much better family member than I have been a friend. I am self-centered, my ego barges in at the most inappropriate times, and I have the “gift of guilt.” I don’t want to know the number of times that I have said to my children, “After all I’ve done for you, you do ………!”

Before I talk about my children, who I am so blessed to call friends, I need to talk about my parents whose love for me has never faded.  It’s been a bit tarnished at times – not by their doing, but by mine.

When I was 7 years-old I developed crippling fears about burglars invading our home in the middle of the night or snakes slithering into my bedroom while I slept. My dad travelled a lot during those days and I still have the note he scrawled to me quickly one morning before he left town. He knew how paralyzed I had become by fear. His note said, “‘Cast all your cares on Christ, for He cares for you.’ And so do I.”  There are days, now that I’m all grown up and still afraid, that I put that tattered note in my pocket, and I can feel the love burn against my trembling heart.”

When I was much older and my battle with alcoholism was winning again. In more shame than I know words to describe, I checked into a treatment center. My mom has never understood my addiction, but she sent me a text that first night that I was in the inpatient infirmary. I snuck my smuggled cell phone out of my bathrobe pocket, and in the middle of one of the darkest nights of my soul I read my mom’s text; “Sharon, I have never loved you more.”

My son is not big on texts or cards or flowery notes, but he wrote me a letter last year on Mother’s Day. On a piece of legal paper (he is a lawyer) he wrote these words; “As the winds of change rattle and strain my foundation, you have been a constant . . . a constant source of love, support, and grace; in short, a mother.” Okay, I need to get some kleenex.

And then there is my daughter – my wildly passionate, deeply wounded, and indescribably beautiful daughter. There is no way that I can capture the words that she has said to me – some have been the most painful words spoken to me and others the most blessed. Her words have made me mad and challenged me to change. Her words have threatened that she might fade away, and they have promised with a brilliance that surpasses all of the seven wonders of the world that she will never stop loving me. There are these words that Kristin writes me every day – they are worth all the money of Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Mark Zuckerberg combined.  She quotes to me a line from a children’s book that I read to her again and again when she was growing up; “I love you forever, I like you for always. As long as I’m living, my momma you’ll be.” And then she signs it, Your Partner in Crime and Dreams. There are some words that cannot be explained.

I Have A Friend Who Knows My Name

I do not share these words of friendships, fading in and out, to prove that I am a good friend. I don’t deserve the riches that I possess in all my friends. I am quick to forget their birthdays and I wait way too long to respond to emails. I have betrayed and hurt dear friends in ways that I never thought that I would. I have actually deleted this blog 3 times, because I’m so undeserving of the friendships that continue to fade into my life.

But I have a friend who I have rejected, questioned, embarrassed, and betrayed more than any other friend. There have been times when I even pretended that I didn’t know His name. He is the One – who although He could claim all the rights of Deity – He put aside His privilege to become a slave. In the worst moment of the history of all humanity, He became the One who was too monstrous for anyone to look at; the One, who Frederick Buechner described, with the swollen lip and the cauliflower ear; the One who was spit on and cursed in every language possible; the One who laid down His life for His friends.

Radically redemptive relationships are possible — whether love has faded or is just beginning — only to the degree that we are lost in the inexplicable love of the Friend who while hanging on that tree for the love of us, He could see us competing and comparing, lying and bragging, back-stabbing and gossiping, promising and being promise breakers; and, while He could see us sinning, He pleaded with God on our behalf; “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

When stories and songs of faded love fill my heart and justify my cynicism, instead of brashly dismissing the hope of friendship by saying that “Love is hard;” may I remember the words of C.S. Lewis; “Love is hard. Hard as nails. Nails in hands and feet.” And then, dear wounded Savior friend, kneel me down in awe and gratitude that you surrendered to those coarse nails in your hands and feet; you felt the betraying jolt that broke every bone in your body; you wept tears of blood in response to the mockery of a crown of thorns on your head because, oh because of the joy set before you. And what – or rather who – was the joy set before you, Lord Jesus? The joy set before you was me – that You could call me friend.

“Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility again himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted  . . . . Look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, ignoring the shame . . . . and in resurrecting is sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2