I’m so thankful and blessed to have Melanie Amos Love share my space in cyberspace today. She is a sweet and wise friend and after you read her “Girlfriend” post, I know you are going to love her just as much as I do! Please be sure to check out her website where you will find her book, JourneyWords.
Friends in Old Places
by Melanie Amos Love
© 2009,JourneyWords, Xulon Press)
“A friend loveth at all times…” Proverbs 17:17a
Not waiting until I got back into the car, I tore open the envelope of newly developed photos I’d picked up at the drugstore. Yes, I’m digital! I can take multi-megapixel photos and print them out in a flash, but these were different. They were prints from a 35-mm roll of film that had fallen into a box of old papers almost twenty years earlier. I couldn’t wait to see what the envelope contained.
My two boys, sweaty and smiling in their clay-dusted tee-ball uniforms…our golden retriever Cody, huddled under the kitchen table during a thunderstorm…all the usual family photographic fare. But the next photo washed me over with sweet sadness: “Alf” and Me. Leaning inward, cheek to cheek, with smiles that that said, “She’s my pal!” Standing there alone in the Walgreen’s parking lot, I had to giggle when I thought of the friendship we once shared. Pranks and hugs, wrapped in prayers. Great friends, we were, with the added special “glue” of having children the same ages. Her Jacob and my Danny. Her Tiffany and my Kenny. Four great kids whose lives converged on the common grounds of church, baseball and especially two moms who loved each other…a bunch.
As Christian women at the same place in life all those years ago, we buoyed one another’s spirits in choppy emotional seas, complained about the bills, swapped recipes and took turns babysitting. We snickered over articles on how to raise perfect children, taught pre-teen girls about missionaries and Jesus and papier-mâché, and could talk for hours on the phone even though we were just a ten-minute drive apart. We prayed for each other and laughed with each other and had a peaceful contentedness that God must’ve meant for us to be friends.
Time marched on, life happened, and Alf moved with her family to another city. We (I) allowed the distance to have a dampening effect on our closeness. It was subtle at first, barely noticeable…but one day I realized our friendship had fizzled. She was busy there, settling into a new home, a new job, and a new church…a new life. Our phone visits became sporadic, and then they stopped. I still wonder sometimes, like I did as I held that happy photo, if she ever thinks of me. Did we sometimes disagree? Yes. Did either of us have ill will toward the other? Nope. Like I said, life happened, and our closeness became its casualty.
The friendships of women come to an end for lots of reasons. Too frequently, the root of the cause is neglect, plain and simple. Even those that end harshly suffered neglect at some point first. As Christian women, we ought to recognize the friendships in our lives for what they are: gifts from God, meant to accomplish a variety of things in all of us. Good friends almost always complement our personalities and abilities rather than coincide with them. I think that’s on purpose…God’s purpose.
I look at the wonderful women who reside in my life now, or who have come and gone, and I am struck by how their presence caused me to grow, and pushed me in His direction…even if they didn’t know Him, and didn’t mean to make me grow. I learned about spiritual boldness from Alf. She also taught me that there’s no silly that’s too silly (and I have pictures!) if it helps others get a word from God. When she moved on from my daily life, in came others: some for a few moments, some for a spell, and some that will be beside me for a lifetime. God’s fingerprints are on each one of those relationships, however many or few times we have spent together.
I don’t want to take a single one of these God-sent relationships for granted! As a woman now older and wiser, I’m occasionally impressed by Him to seek out a friend who’s passed on from my life, if for no other reasons than to tell them (in the likely event that I never did) what a blessing they were in my life…and to let them know that God has refreshed my memories of them so that I can pray for them, wherever He has them.
Not every woman who’s come and then gone in my life has moved on in the physical sense. Not all of them are distant in miles…only in heart. While God deliberately gave me some friendships only for a season, others didn’t last nearly as long as He intended, thanks to me. Some have left, I’m sure, because I wasn’t the friend to them that I should have been. Maybe I took them for granted, or pretended to be too busy a few too many times. Maybe they perceived that I was preoccupied when they were trying to share a hurt or a concern with me, and they felt unimportant.
Perhaps they misunderstood something I or someone else said that changed how they saw me. On the other hand, maybe I was the offended one. Because one or the other of us wasn’t genuine, or because she or I neglected the other’s presence in our life, the friendship faltered.
It’s likely that each of us has at least a friendship or two that is dying from neglect, or that has been long-buried in a grave choked with the weeds of self-centeredness. When God foreknew us, in the very beginning, He had friendships planned for us. They were (are) that important. And He’s revealed to me that it is never too late for Him to heal or revive those relationships (He’s in the healing and resurrection business, remember?) If He answers that an old friendship is best left laid to rest, He is still the One Who can cause it to rest in peace, allowing us to pray for that old friend while leaving the resting place undisturbed.
I don’t know if I’ll ever see Alf again. I’ve made a few unsuccessful attempts to contact her, but maybe this is one that God’s accomplished His purpose in. I prayed for her today, and I propped that photo where I’ll see it often. When I do, I’ll pray for her again. She made a difference in my life, and if she’s still letting God use her the way He did back then, she’s busy right now being a blessing. I couldn’t have planned it better!
A Word for Your Journey
Consider past friendships. Have you been part of a friendship that (from either side) was injured, crippled, or even killed, by neglect, or harsh words, or worse? Remember, our Lord is in the resurrection business! Ask Him to reveal a past friendship that He still wants to use. He desires reconciliation for His children, and He’ll tell you — through circumstances or a bright memory or a whisper in your spirit — the name of a friend who He wants to reach backwards to bless through you. Be alert for His nudges, speak and act from your heart, and experience the relief of a healed or resurrected friendship.
Let’s thank God every day for the friendships we enjoy: the old ones, the new ones, the short ones, the long ones. Pray His protection on the ones we treasure, restoration for the ones we have put on a shelf, and peaceful rest those He can no longer use. Let’s ask Him to bless each one of those women, whether we remain fond of them or not. Where we refused to forgive someone long ago, let’s go ahead and do it now. If they won’t receive that forgiveness, we’ve been obedient to extend it, and we’re free to move on. If they’re simply out of reach, let’s experience the freedom of forgiving them anyway, right where we are. It still counts!