Surprised by Friendship

From weekend getaways that bring bellies aching with laughter to late night conversations that bring sleeves wet with tears, friendship is surprising.

I had all the friends I needed, until one day I didn’t.friends-having-coffee

The yearbook sentiments of “BFF” and “Always and Forever” which seem oh so true when you’re 18 and going away to college prove pale in comparison to saying an actual goodbye after decades of friendship when you’re pushing five decades old yourself. I wasn’t prepared for that final goodbye of my BFF.

As I stood by her grave site I thought to myself, Yes… friendship has certainly surprised me.

I never thought that as a grown-up I’d need to call another adult woman at four in the morning because I was so emotional that I just needed to hear the voice of my friend. I never thought I’d so look forward to a coffee date with another mom with whom I shared so much in common—from parenting philosophies to prayer, favorite books to beloved vacation spots. This friendship journey has taught me a lot about the complexities of relationship with another human being, and has taught me even more about myself.

As a woman who struggles with what I have often termed “stubborn self-sufficiency”, I didn’t know how much I’d crave the input of another (who would also put herself in the self-sufficient camp) in my life. I didn’t know how hard it would be to go back to figuring things out on my own after I’d had the luxury of a close comrade who was willing to put aside her own worries, doubts and problems in order to help me figure out mine.

I didn’t know that walking through my house would bring me sweet memories that stung more than they comforted, stopping to peruse drawers she’d helped me organize and cookbooks she’d encouraged me to buy. I had to find a new place to sit with the Lord in the morning because all of the books in my library brought reminders of years of book club with other book-loving ladies, and then our own coffee-date-private-book-club when the other book-loving ladies became too busy to ever show up having read the actual story.

I didn’t know that my heart would ache as I tucked my own kids in bed knowing that hers would go untouched by their mama… the woman who first showed me how to swaddle my newborn, how to pump and store breast-milk, how to get multiple things done while my sweet babies slept, and how to parent through each stage of this wonderful journey of motherhood. And I certainly didn’t know how much I would need someone during those times in life when stubborn self-sufficiency would fail me.

She held my hand through a terrible miscarriage, made multiple meals for my family during my multiple surgeries. She listened and never judged and wasn’t afraid to share her own stories about the challenges we all experience as moms, wives and friends. Yes, friendship has surprised me. This woman who thought she didn’t need anyone is finding that she actually did, that she actually does, that she actually craves to be connected to another human being.

God created us for relationships. In fact, the greatest commandment—to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as our self—is all about relationships (Matthew 22:36-40).

I believe that’s why Jesus, himself, wept when he saw his friends stricken with grief when they thought they’d lost their beloved brother and friend, Lazarus (John 11). Losing those we care for so deeply is hard. And, although we know that because of the rich sacrifice of Christ we will see those we love again, it does not negate the sad fact that we do not get to enjoy life with them now. The hope for our future reunion doesn’t change the fact that children will have to grow up without their mom, a husband will forever be a widower, and a friend will be left without her confidant. Jesus wept, and so do I. I guess you could say this surprised me too.

My periodically-immature faith would tell me that such grief might indicate a lack of faith in the resurrection hope. But Jesus sets an example, showing sympathy for the bereaved by shedding tears even though he knew he was about to raise his friend from the dead. Scripture promises that in death, my friend will also rise and sit at the feet of Jesus.

Yes, friendship is surprising. But God’s provision, care and comfort is anything but.

The psalmist wrote that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

So today I weep, but I will put aside my stubborn self-sufficiency and rest in the knowledge that joy will come one of these mornings. Until then, I’ll continue to look forward to how God keeps surprising me.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Kahlil Gibran




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