I opened the zippered side of the diaper bag, just before getting out of the car this morning. Oh no, I thought. I pulled out a sippy cup that I didn’t remember putting in there. Much worse, we haven’t been using a diaper bag for awhile since Jonathan has gotten older. Who knows how old that sippy cup is?! Then I notice the fullness of the other zippered pocket on the other side. Yep, another very old and probably very disgusting sippy cup. I thought I smelled a faint soured scent, but didn’t really understand what I was in for until I got back into the hot car after Jonathan’s appointment and the smell overwhelmed me! As I drove home I debated the worth of the sippies. Sure, they are $4.99, but it might be worth it if I don’t have to spend one whole minute cleaning it, where I have to smell and even touch the nastiness inside.
Don’t ask me how this connection came to me, but I realized that our friends are like sippy cups. Most of the time, our friends serve their purpose and we are blessed for it. Think of all the times you have put things like chocolate milk or grape juice in one and then you watch your toddler pitch it onto the light colored couch or carpet. When we don’t have a sippy cup with us, we miss it. I remember sitting with William in a restaurant when he was two. The server gave him a Styrofoam cup with lid and straw for his water. Within two minutes he had punctured a hole in the cup with a straw and 16 oz of water covered us, the table, and the floor. Another time I was at lunch with friends and the restaurant tried to put a plastic lid on a regular glass cup. We had three big milk spills before our meals came! (Needless to say, the next time we went, they had purchased kids cups!)
We have also had that horrible experience of the lost and found sippy cup like I experienced today. These are like our friends when they require work. Maybe they lost their job, their boyfriend, or their cat. Maybe they lost their joy, their smile, or their hope. Like a sippy cup, this friend used to bless us, and it might bless us again in the future, but right now, it requires effort on our part. We have to choose. Is the sippy cup worth it? Is my friend worth it? Or do I just throw her/it away?
Here are some reasons to toss it:
· It will only cost $4.99 to replace it. We all have a lot of women around us. There is always someone else to call, visit, email, go out to lunch with, etc. What's the harm is transfering our affection, time, and effort to someone else?
· Actually, I had already bought another one last week; that one will do. Maybe we already have that great other friend. It makes this decision a lot easier.
· I’ll just adapt so that I don’t need that sippy cup…I’m sure my 11 month old can drink out of a regular cup without it ever spilling. We turn to isolation or independence. We don't need friends, we tell ourselves.
· If I try to clean it, it is going to make me uncomfortable because I’ll have to touch it and the smell might linger in the kitchen or on my hands. To be the friend God calls us to be, we have to get our hands dirty. Jesus gave some of hismost intimate time to the dirtiest people around.
On the other hand, you might consider why you should keep it:
· I might need it next week when I’m in a pinch and we need our drinks in the car with us. If we fall on hard times, we need an accessible friend. We want to keep our bases covered.
· That one has been the most reliable one—it never spills when it is on its side. We all know it. Different friends have different committment levels for us. You know who to call in an emergency. You know who would sacrifice anything for them. Hopefully, you are that kind of friend.
· I’ve had that one since he was a baby, I can’t give up on it now . This one makes sense if you are a borderline hoarder, like me. And as uncomfortable as I am throwing out sippy cups, I’m even more uncomfortable throwing out friends.
Here is where the metaphor breaks down. First, sippy cups have no feelings. They have no soul. A nasty sippy cup in the trash can will not cry itself to sleep. It won’t drive itself crazy trying to discover what it did wrong. When you turn your back on a friend because they are “spoiled” or have spent too much time in the wrong place (not the cupboard) and in the wrong state (not being clean), these are the feelings that result. Oh, my heart aches for the friends that I have thrown away simply because I cared more about my comfort and my joy than I cared for them. I have learned from experience that it is highly unlikely that the person will allow you to dig them out of the trash once you have realized your wrong. I have also learned that oftentimes if the person digs themselves out and cleans themselves up, the love they once had for you has been replaced by bitterness and resentment.
Second, sippy cups are solely for our use. We do nothing for them in return. Friends are different. We can’t just base our friendships on what they can do for us. But when I look around, I see this perspective everywhere! Yes, even in the church. Maybe even especially in the church. We know our needs and we seek out friends to fill those roles. As soon as someone stops meeting our needs, our affection for them starts to wane. It is easier to throw nasty sippy cups away as our child grows older and their ability to control their little hands gets better, isn’t it?
My suggestion is that maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to throw away our “sippy cups.” I pity the person who throws out their sippy cups prematurely. May heaven help us when a visiting child holds a cup of grape juice over our carpet, and there is not a reliable sippy cup in sight.