On friendship

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I think that we can all say that at one point in our lives, in one way or another, we’ve been changed by another person.  Some of these changes are small, I always think fondly of and slightly curse the young woman who first introduced me to Marlboro Reds. I can thank a boy from Australia for sharing his fried egg on a hamburger with me so I could love it as much as him. I always pay my utility bill on time because of a rotten roommate I had once (don’t ask). These changes make up a lot of who we are. They are lovely and terrible and necessary and small.

But sometimes, we meet people who change us so profoundly that the course of our lives is irrevocably changed. These people extend to us so much joy and hope and love that we are saved from the possibility of the heartbreak might have been.

I can literally thank God for the three women in that picture up there, in part because of His limitless wisdom in bringing us together, but also because we literally met through church. One I got to know in the mountains, swaying and bouncing her new baby, and enjoying, for the first time since converting, a Christian woman who was as brassy and passionate and fierce as I was ( Truth: brassier, more passionate and a thousand times more fierce). One I met for coffee one afternoon, who knows how, and as my toddler splashed in a nearby fountain, marveled at her wisdom and her spirit, soft and strong, steel and velvet.  The third came to me through the first two, blinding in her beauty and dazzling me with her brain. Like a living sparkler. And the four of us fell together easily, like we’d been waiting for each other.

There is no perfect formula for making friends, no list to follow that tells you: “and once you’ve completed step 15, you will be lifelong friends. Congratulations!” More likely than not, most people you meet will move in and out of your life without changing you to dramatically. You will measure other people, new people by those old acquaintances, measure them rightly or wrongly, finding them wanting or exactly what you need.  And so on, and on.

Some of these people, the ones that wash over and around us, some will change us. They may soften an edge, or make a new chip. If we are wise, we view each change as an opportunity and learn and grow and change. If we are very lucky, the change is for the better and leave our mark on them as well. We call these people our friends, because we know them, we choose to share our lives with them and we are changed by them. Some people will round us out or sharpen our edges and some will pass over us like so much water. There is no same set of perfect circumstances for making friends, and what might crack me in two? May merely soften the edge you’ve been honing for decades.

If you ask me, (and you’re reading the blog so you basically asked me) this happy tide is no accident. We were placed here by a loving creator, the same being who set the stars spinning, shaped these fragile silly bodies and knows what will make us perfect. God knows about the deep scar you’ve got running through your heart, He knows about the glitch in my mind that psychiatry calls obsessive compulsive disorder, He knows our most crushing sorrow, our soaring joy. And He knows the people to send to us, while we wade through it, the ones who will sob with us, the ones who will throw us a party for no reason, the ones who make us laugh. This sea of humanity is an extravagant gift to us, a way for God to reach out and cradle us close. “I sent this person to you, to slow down your haste. I sent them to break your heart so you could learn. I gave you this one to give you the hug you needed this morning. I am here. I am here. I am here.”

It’s not a pat theory. There are people who have come into my life who almost destroyed me. They were cruel and vicious and the changes I got from my run in with them left me damaged and broken. I’d like to think that God didn’t send them.There are people who I have spent an afternoon with, who I know almost nothing about, that I came into contact with totally randomly, who have basically changed some of my fundamental beliefs. It’s odd that God would be so anomalous. But even in those cases, those people were necessary. They created the me that I love, the me that sings praise to her Saviour, the me that rejoices in her kids, the me that my husband adores. Those people prepared me for meeting these women that God sent me and helped me see that these friends are precious.

Those three women up there? I can say without hesitation that they saved my life. Multiple times. They have prayed with me and cried with me. They have cooked with me and we have raised our children together. Those women are light and joy and truth. They are challenges and sustenance.  They give the best hugs and let me rest against them when I am tired. They are hours and hours of conversation and laughter.  They are one of the greatest, most lavish gifts my God has ever given me.  I don’t deserve even one of them, but I was blessed with three.

This little essay is just a ramble. There’s no profound advice here, no sound moral. Just a love letter to my girls and the truth: It’s hard to feel like you can make friends, I know that, but the people you need are out there. They will be with you right when you need them. And isn’t that the most wonderful thing you’ve ever heard?

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