I remember the first time she came to my home. I was hosting a birthday party for my preschooler and her daughter was at the top of the guest list. Though I didn’t know her well, we had worshipped together regularly, and I knew we had many things in common … we had studied music in college, we were married to sports enthusiasts, and we each were currently parenting teenagers, newborns, and several in between.
We greeted loudly that Saturday morning- giggly girls hugging hello, baby sisters screeching from car carriers, the other ladies chattering happily. My house was filled with cheery decorations and a sweet aroma. Rooms were tidy and the food was fully prepared. I welcomed her in with a smile.
Once the party had begun, she pulled me aside and asked if there was somewhere she could nurse her baby privately. Hmmmm. As dread replaced cheer, I forced the continuation of my smile.
Yes. I have a rocking chair in my room. That room that never got cleaned this week, that served as the staging area for most of this party’s projects and preparation. That room that currently houses no fewer than four laundry baskets filled with all the random junk we collected from around the house as we cleaned. Oh, Dear Heavens, Yes, I have a place.
I looked her in the eye and confessed. “You are welcome to use my room. But if I let you see my room today, I must tell you, like it or not, you and I are about to become VERY close friends!”
At that point in my life I lived within a binding veil of perceived perfectionism. The truth of my messes was hidden away - safely out of sight. Very few folks had been granted access into the reality of my short fallings. But on that day, God used this glorified acquaintance to barge past the boundaries of my pride to offer acceptance and grace. Turning the knob to my bedroom door opened a pathway to peace … but it was hard. Exposing the cluttered mess surrounding my unmade bed – which symbolized other, less physical, areas of my life - also exposed my fear of being known and rejected.
But there she went. Confident and gracious. She did not gasp in disbelief. She did not recoil with disgust. She happily high-stepped over a basket of [stuff], swayed with her infant while I tossed a pile of clothes away from the rocker, then she sunk into the chair and smiled a grateful grin as I slipped out of the room.
We are SO gonna have to be BFFS after this.
Our friendship did grow quickly and easily in the fertile soil of humor and humility, strengthened by honesty, having been sprouted by the soaking, cleansing rains of unexpected transparency.
Over the years, we have each had opportunity to extend grace toward one another. She and I have enjoyed the freedom to speak our minds. At times we misunderstood each other. We caused each other hurt and confusion, but we always continued the conversation until it landed in a peaceful place. Sometimes we were sorting through my junk, other times we were hashing through hers. Many times we simply enjoyed the deep, true comfort of a smile and a wave from someone who knows you well … and loves you anyway.
She shared parts of her most difficult journeys with me. She consistently offered me the truth of her humanity. She was honest about her struggles. She is gifted and talented and strong in so many ways, but has rarely shied away from treasuring her weaknesses in front of me.
Last January when I hit my lowest point, and had a smallish break-down, she was the person I called. I couldn’t be sure how others might react to the ugly pit in which I had lost myself. Some might gloss over my plight and downplay the severity of the crisis. Others might absolutely panic in the thick, blinding smog of my recent emotional explosion.
I thank God for that birthday party and that breast-feeding baby. I thank God for not leaving my heart trapped behind the walls of denial and pride and fear. I am thankful for friends who courageously share who they REALLY are, and graciously allow me to be who I really am, so that as our lives rub against one another in the Light of God’s love and truth, we each walk away sharpened – better prepared to live victoriously.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
Tools cannot be sharpened if they remain hidden away in their protective case.
May God continue to open our lives to the friction of discomfort so He can hone our hearts to fear only Him, and to find true comfort and protection only in His presence.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:10