I’ll never forget sitting in the classroom and hearing the final school bell ring, signaling the onset of the weekend. I was in the sixth grade, and the big party day was finally here! One of the coolest girls in school had invited me – shy, nerdy, awkward me - to join the large group of girls at her house for a sleepover to celebrate her birthday. I felt like I had arrived. After all, these were the girls that the football boys picked to cheer them on at recess. And I was going to the party.
The present had to be just right. I was a saver, so the thought of spending my own money made my cheeks flush for sure, but this was an extra special event. I hemmed and hawed and surveyed each aisle carefully until I finally found it. The perfect, most beautiful Pepto-Bismol-pink-colored purse. Oh yes, I can close my eyes and see it now. The price was more than I would have normally spent, but it was a sacrifice this sixth grader was willing to make, seeing as how my reputation was on the line and all.
I ran to my locker and grabbed the gift I had picked and wrapped with so much care, then rushed outside to find my friend and the rest of the party girls congregating at the bus’s folding doors. But as I approached them, their faces looked confused. In an instant, my feelings of elation turned to despair.
“I’m sorry, I changed my mind. Maybe next time. You understand, right?”
I sobbed all the way home and then late into the night on my momma’s lap, with the Pepto-pink purse laying beside me as a reminder of my fresh wounds.
And I learned that friendships solely based on shallow, worldly things – and my own selfishness - often lead to disappointment and emptiness.
Fast forward a few years to a secular college campus. We were eighteen and thought we could conquer the world, until the world humbled us big time and we recognized our great need for Jesus like never before. Our futures were uncertain, our flesh was weak, and our resolve was challenged. So we studied our Bibles together. We circled up and sang worship songs and held hands and prayed late into the night about things like college majors, boys, and begged for God to save us from Organic Chemistry. And we gave Jesus every bit of us, this time in full surrender.
And I learned that just as iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another (Prov. 27:17).
Fast forward a few more years to a life changing phone call, too late in the night to resemble anything close to good news. We had just begun our families, and these amazing young mommas were quickly becoming my lifeline to sanity amidst spit-up and sleepless nights and toddlers who wouldn’t obey. Following that devastating phone call, God bound our hearts together in ways that went much deeper than play dates and the swapping of maternity clothes. We begged God to carry our widowed friend, and cried out to our Sovereign Father to be a father to the fatherless. We swapped meals, home improvement projects and met needs over and over. We held each other’s hands through hard diagnoses, sick children and through spiritual battles warring for every last ounce of our strength.
And I learned that especially when you know the love of God, it is an honor to lay down your life for your friends (John 15:12-13).
Fast forward a few more years to a doctor’s office waiting room. I waited impatiently for her appointment to be over, praying the entire time that it would be nothing. A harmless lump and nothing more. But God had something beautiful in mind. Friendships taken to even deeper levels, strengthened by a great God who can even use cancer for good. There were pre-chemo pedicure parties, encouraging Bible verses written on 3×5 cards, a shopping trip dedicated to wigs, head scarves and lots of laughter, and desperate post-chemo nights when all I could do was pray, read scripture aloud, and run my fingers through her thinning hair.
And I learned that two are better than one, because one can help the other up (Ephesians 4:9-10).
Growing up is hard. But growing up in Christ – hand in hand together – is worth the fight.
Wrestling for on our knees, all the while, looking to the One who holds us in His hands and binds us together as we grow and evolve and change more and more into His image.
Oh that I would lay aside myself, and love like you, Jesus. And this is what makes friendships run deep…
At His feet,