Stop Melting Rings and Start Making Art: What we can learn about friendship from art.

            I had this wonderful teacher in an advanced casting class that talked about the value of an art piece not turning out how you, as the artist wanted it to.  Instead of calling it a mistake she called it "gathering data".  We learn more about life when things don't go the way we think they should than we will ever learn from our successes and wins.  This isn't my favorite life lesson, but there it is and it's true.  However, we have to be willing to "gather data", be teachable and curious to learn these beautiful lessons.  If we just take our toys and go home, it will always stay in the "mistake" category and never propel us forward into something better. 

              There is a popular theory out there that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.  In our reality TV fame, Amazon Prime 2nd day delivery, microwave instant world we have to remember that the Beatles spent more than 10,000 hours playing as an unrecognized band in small pubs before they changed musical history.  Good things take time and effort, training, dedication, and some failures and dust ups. 

            Success is not a God given right.  It starts in the dark unseen, uncelebrated corners of our tenacity and bravery. 

            When I first started making jewelry I was scared to light my torch.  It's intimidating.  You could like, blow stuff up or at least light your hair on fire.  There is an order to how to turn the torch on and up and it gets easy to forget when you are scared for your life or hair (so fun fact-my instructor called it the "poop" method.  Propane oxygen, then oxygen propane).   Soldering little connector rings called jumprings onto pieces is a necessary skill, but it just about ended me.  I would light my terrifying torch, try not to get anything too hot, run the flame around the piece and just when it looked like my solder would flow, the tiny little ring I was trying to solder to the great big piece would melt into a little ball instead.  GAH!  Turn the torch off, start over and times that process by a lot.  I was sitting in the front seat of the struggle bus.  Since then I have lit my torch and soldered rings onto things a few thousand times and those skills are super easy now, aaaaand my hair is still on my head, so #winning!  I remember that when something seems impossible, insurmountable, un-figure-out-able.  Sometimes you just need to practice it, learn it, stick with it, gather data and one day you just get it.  You level up.  You stop melting stuff and start making art.    

            Friendship is a lot like art. 

            There is a myth out there that friendship dances into your life and there are those who are just lucky and have it and those who don't.  Some people feel that way about talent, but I can't think of a single artist who was truly great with no effort, time, dedication and devotion to their craft.  It just looks easy when you stand back and see a master at work, but no one was paying attention when they were playing bad keys in dark pubs or melting jump rings in a classroom.  No one was paying attention before the first perfectly crafted selfie.        

            You get better at it the more you practice.  Friendship is a practice.  It is gathering data.  It's staying curious about people and what communicates value to them.  What am I practicing?  Where do I keep hitting bad keys and melting rings?  How can I work on that?  When we look at parties we were not invited to, weekend getaways that never include us, bff selfies with perfect filters of other people it can be so slick and easy to swallow the lie that we aren't enough.  Or that kind of friendship is for "other people" but not us.  Let me tell you something,

            Friendship is hard for everyone.

            It is awkward to make friends and challenging to keep them.  For everyone.

People are beautiful and complex moving balls of emotion.  Just when we think we have it figured out, something shifts.  So we have to work at it.  God made us in a way that requires that we put effort into things that matter.  There are no special unicorn people who are born gifted at making and keeping friends.  When we buy into that, it becomes easier to let ourselves off the hook for the effort that is required from us.  We are dropping our accountability in the matter and anointing ourselves self fulfilling prophets.  "I'm bad at making friends, so why bother?"  So we don't.  And we stay "bad at frienship".  Aaaaand cue end credits.  I am saying this as an introverted, only child who grew up on top of a mountain with no neighbors and went to private school, just in case you think I *might* be a unicorn person.  Let's just kill that myth right now.  Friendship is HARD.  But it is so worth it.  It is a gift from God.  Good things take work, relationships are good things, and we can get better at them.  It is in our power because it is something God wants for us.  Most of the Bible is how to love others well.  I think he thinks it's a big deal.

       Sure there are things that come easier to some of us than others but we all have to build up our strengths, our courage to go farther than we have before, to learn to have hard conversations with great love, to let things go, to love others in ways that require sacrifice from us. 

            We can get into some coo coo head spaces about making friends.  Too much effort or one missed communication opportunity and we box that relationship right up and put a "failed" sticker on it. But...then the Bible tells us to, " Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves." (Romans 12:10) Devotion takes time.  Am I right?  I'm devoted to running, so at one point I could run a whole 26 miles without walking.  I trained and I pushed myself and I got better.  If I was devoted to my brother or sister, I could get better at this relationship thing, right?  You are always moving forward if you are devoted.  Devoted is not a stagnant word.  God wouldn't ask that of us and be like, "just kidding, you are bad at friendship, too introverted, too shy, too extra.  I didn't mean that one for you".     

            Creating connection is like being an artist.  We create something new where there was nothing when we create a relationship with someone.  We are invested in the process and take ownership for the outcome.  We recognize that each piece of art looks different and needs to be handled differently.  Our art looks different than other people's art.  There is not one way to create art and there is not one way to form relationships.  The way we do it will be individual to us as art is to artists.  This is how we connect.  With our individuality.  We know there is a risk it may fail but we know the art is worth the risk.  We put parts of ourselves out there for the world to see as part of our art and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. 

            We do this because we know that that individual piece of art is not the sum total of our worth. 

            In fact, we are already created and loved and seated in a place of worth by God so nothing that happens in these individual pieces of art, these individual relationships changes that.  Because of that we can move forward with a spirit of bravery.

            Don't expect your art to connect with everyone.  Your target audience is not the whole world. 

            When we have a hard time soldering a connection, we work at it until we level up and stop melting rings and start making art. 

            When an art project goes seriously south you celebrate the learning experience and do things a little differently next time.  You don't throw all the art away because of one wonky piece.  You don't throw all the good, all the relationship, all the friends, all the effort away because of one hurtful experience.  God wants such beautiful, supportive, encouraging, stretching, growing, healthy relationships for you.    

            Put in the work.  Be devoted.  Know your worth.  Watch the art unfold. 

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe youselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."  Colossians 3:12-14 


What do you think?  What are some things we can do to practice being better at friendship?  


















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