“That’s the heart of this book — the call back to friendship — even when it’s hard, awkward, unfamiliar, or scary” (Lisa-Jo Baker).
I’ve been sitting up nights, when quiet finally falls on the house, and curling up on the couch with this little book on my lap. A little book with a cover so pretty and a feeling so lightweight that it doesn’t look like it could pack the punch it does. It’s finally warm enough here to leave the windows open, so I hear the wind rustling through the leaves outside as I read words like “Love is that thing we’re supposed to give away without any strings attached.” Curl up a little tighter on my marker-stained couch. Pull the light with its flower lampshade a little closer. And underline “But God, I have found, is stubborn. And He has stubbornly insisted in my life that there is no “done” when it comes to sacrificial love. There is only ‘more.’”
Sitting up nights, probably later than I should, reading, highlighting, margin-note-making. What should I say? You see, this little book, Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker, was gifted to me by B&H Publishing in exchange for my honest review.
I read, and I pause to pray. What can I write about this book? I wonder how to choose.
Maybe I’ll write about how Lisa-Jo has broken down the fears that keep us from real friendships like each fear was a brick coming down from a strong and sturdy wall. Brick by brick, she pulls down the fear of repeating the past, of repeating our friendship hurts… the fear of missing out, of not being included… and the fear of starting all over again, again. The words fly off the page and one at a time the bricks come down from the wall that divides us.
Or maybe I’ll tell you how this book explains the concept of forgiveness to a depth I’ve rarely, if ever, seen in print. Lisa-Jo explores how the forgiveness of past hurts frees us up to experience intimate friendships in the present. “Not necessarily with the same people who’ve scarred us,” she clarifies, thoughtfully putting into place one of the most widely misunderstood concepts of Christianity. And I marvel how right there, in the first chapter, Lisa-Jo has not only tackled the difficult issue of boundaries, she’s also explained how to identify past hurts and how to get free from them, urging, “Forgiveness is the first step out of the dark and into the light.” That whole page is underlined in purple.
Maybe I’ll write about how she encourages us to let go. To let go of the need to create some kind of image and let our friends see the woman behind the smile. To let go of our expectations, to let our friendships off the hook. To let go of that one unreachable ideal that’s made each of us miserable at some point, the ideal that other people can and should fill us up. (Where did that notion come from, anyway?)
There are so many things I could say about this book. If I have to pick one…
Then I want to talk about how Lisa-Jo encourages us to Never Give Up.
She’s not shy about the truth. I nodded silently along with “Friendship is not for the faint of heart,” right there, on the first page of the introduction. She’s right. So if we’re going to be faithful in our relationships with friends and family, we’re going to need a good dose of perseverance.
Are you the New Girl in town? Don’t be afraid to go first, she says.
Wonder what they’re saying about you? “When in doubt, believe the best about your friends.” The words plead with me from the page.
Worried that you don’t have enough to offer? Enough to give? “No matter how much you clean or remodel or move or rebuild, hospitality will always be more a matter of the heart than the architecture.”
And when we run out of Never-Give-Up, we can remember the One who never gave up on us. “The One who moved into the neighborhood to get to know us, the friend of the popular and unpopular” Lisa-Jo calls Him. Jesus alone is the source of our tenacity, our hope, our purpose in friendships.
So last night I closed chapter five with a fresh determination to Never Give Up. To pick up the phone and call my old friend, even though it’s been way too long. To be more than just a neighbor to the mom sitting beside me at the park. To be the friend my spouse would like to have. To show up to the playdate or the meeting or the Bible study, even though I don’t really know anyone. To feel like I’ve failed at these things but then to get back up again. Lisa-Jo’s words have inspired me anew to try. To be. To show up.
And though Lisa-Jo’s writing style is fun to read, this book is not an easy one. The stories stop me in my tracks and the simple wisdom pauses me to pray. Yes, this book takes time, takes thoughtfulness, and I’m making space in my day for it.