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When Friends Become Family, and the Hardest Goodbyes

When Friends Become Family, and the Hardest Goodbyes

This post.

I know it’s been coming.  I’m not sure even how to begin.  But it’s time.  I’ve written this a million times in my head.  And even tried to start typing it out a few times just to find myself staring at a blinking cursor, eyelids brimming.

Here I am.  Sitting in “my spot” on my friend’s couch.  Getting ready to board a flight tomorrow morning.  A flight that will take me back home.

Home.

Home to my family, my husband, my kids, my life.  A life that looks very different than I expected it to, even just a few months ago, but in some ways both painfully and beautifully the same.

I’ve written about my friends a lot, so if you’ve followed me for very long, you know what a big deal they are to me.  I’ve told you about my sweet friend and her Haitian son, about my big sister and her heart for the hurting and about my dear friend who met me in a dark season of soul, along with a few others.  Living in a house of all boys, I think I have a unique ability to grasp the rare and incomparable value of authentic female friendships.

But this post is about a road that ends tomorrow.  Ok, that’s a little dramatic…It doesn’t end, but it changes significantly.  For the last few years, I’ve walked arm-in-arm with this friend.  We have ministered together, we’ve laughed together, we’ve cried together, we’ve fought together…and we’ve bled together.  And this past week, we drove 12 LONG hours together.  We drove to deliver her to her new life, her new home.IMG_0180 (2)

It’s funny, I’ve moved across states and left friends before.  And some have left on their own adventures.  But every once in a while, there are those people who walk into your life and completely upend it.  In short, this friend ruined me.  She ruined me for the ordinary.

She was different than anyone I’d met.  People in ministry are supposed to be buttoned up and polished and have it all together, right??  They are supposed to talk and act a certain way, right??  They are supposed to fit a criteria and have friends that look and act just like them, right?

Sounds ridiculous, I know.  But you see, I’ve been in or around churches and ministries all my life and this has been mostly what I’ve seen.

But you know what, this friend didn’t do that.

Can I be honest? I didn’t like her at first. (Don’t worry, she already knows that.)

You see, she was utterly unimpressed with me…and it drove me crazy. Because, I’ve taken the personality tests, and that’s what I do, I “win others over”.  But nothing I did or said ever seemed to phase her.  I talked the talk.  I quoted the scriptures.  I knew all the “right” answers.  But she never bought it.

So I watched.

I watched her over time, as she befriended the least likely.  This friend who went out for ice cream every Saturday night with a sweet older couple. The one who always made a point to run back in to make sure that the lonely widower in the Harley t-shirt and long hair knew there is someone who cares, someone who sees.  The one who saw the former drug addict for what he could be, not just who he is, when no one else bothered to notice.  The one who while in the darkest season of her life still seemed to notice the scared abused woman on the run in a late night diner and spoke life to her and quickly got on the task to find her a place to stay for the night. The one who made it possible for her friend in a wheelchair to go some of the places he never thought possible, when no one ever really took the time to believe or to show him that all things really are possible.  The one who has campaigned for and befriended and fought for prostitutes and strippers while so many of us are living in our “Holy Huddle” afraid to get our hands dirty.

Sound like anyone you know…?

“Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” Mark 2:17

No wonder she was unimpressed with me.  I was “righteous”.  I was upper-middle-class.  Charming and pretty, married with 3 kids and a dog and a cat and a minivan. I was talented and well-put-together.  I was basically what the culture of today would find valuable.Sailboat clouds (2)

But Jesus never spent a whole lot of time ministering to those kind of people – the Pharisees.  He engaged them, He tried to explain, but so rarely did any of them understand.  But He did exactly what He came to do anyway.  And He didn’t make any apologies for it.  That is what my friend does.  She makes you uncomfortable.  She makes you question.  And if you are willing, she also makes you see.

She taught me to see people.  And not just the ones who look and act just like me.  And she taught me that it never mattered what anyone thought, only Jesus.

“Sometimes we are most indebted to the person who pushes into our world and helps us see the absurdity of our fears.” – Mike Maeshiro

I’ve seen her at her best and I’ve seen her at her worst.  But somehow, just being with her, makes you know Jesus more.  And she makes the parts of you that aren’t surrendered to Him – squirm.

She leads from behind, a “rear guard”.  She doesn’t stand at the top from a platform, she bends low to be the platform for anyone willing to be a little bit wrecked.

So my friend, my sister, I miss you already.

And while I know nothing changes, (well, ok, other than 800 miles) and I’m sure we will talk or text at least 17 times before I even get this post edited and published.  But life will be different now.  And that’s ok.  Because I will be forever different because of you.  Any significance I ever have in this life, big or small, will always be traced back to your influence.  And I could think of a pretty substantial list of people who could tell a similar story.  But apparently, there are people elsewhere who need you more than we do now.

But don’t worry, just as Paul instructed Timothy, I promise to “guard what has been entrusted” to me. (1 Timothy 6:20)

I love you, friend.  “You will always be my person.”

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I heard this song the other day and ended up in a heap of tears.  (For those of you as impatient as I am, the lyrics don’t start until 2:25 – you’re welcome.)

“You taught me the courage of stars before you left

How light carries on endlessly even after death 

With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite,

How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.

But I couldn’t help but ask you to say it all again,

I tried to write it down but I could never find a pen

I’d give anything to hear you say it one more time

That the universe was made just to be seen by my eyes

So with shortness of breath I’ll explain the infinite,

how rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.”

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