I got her text a few days after the voting that devastated me. A vote that split our church family wide open. We voted differently. She asked me to lunch.
She and I, we’ve sat among peers in the same prayer circle for three years now, peeking inside our hearts when the Word tore open our ugly, offering consolation and the spoon of friendship stirring up faith. But we didn’t talk about the church vote.
No one asked me how it felt to have your church turn their back on what you’ve poured your heart into for twelve years. The church planting movement my husband helps to lead, the one I’d written hundreds of stories about, uprooted my family to move across the country for.
I said no to lunch. I couldn’t sweep all that pain under the rug and smile over salad. I’ve never been good at pretending. I’m the girl whose mother knew I hadn’t eaten well in college by the tone of my voice over the phone.
A few days later, sitting in my van trembling after midnight, thinking about who I could call for help to navigate the wreck my daughter had with a semi, I scrolled through all those church people in my mind. The families I wrote down on those forms for my children, you know, the people the school should call in case you aren’t available in an emergency.
I hadn’t talked to those people in months.
But I received her text.
So I called her.
She didn’t answer.
It was 1:30 in the morning.
I was relieved I didn’t wake her up.
She called me back, after two hours of sleep in my clothes. Said she saw my update on Facebook and my missed call on her phone and she was in a puddle, and so relieved to know Murielle was okay. And all that church stuff, it felt like chaff in the wind blowing tumbleweed down the street of my soul.
Sometimes perspective plummets like an elevator shaft unhooked from what you’ve always taken for granted.
She came to my door with foil covered containers filled with food, the salt from our tears and the presence of the holy. We sat on my couch shouldering hope under the cacophony of teens consoling my daughter, talking about everything and nothing. And I learned what it means to bare one another’s burdens.
I named the ache of my pain, opened the gift of receiving and I’m looking forward to going to lunch soon.
In her book, Enuma Okoro says, “A believing community shoulders hope when circumstances seem hopeless. A believing community speaks boldly into despair and longing and suggests that things do not have to remain as they are in the presence of a holy, imaginative God.”
As we enter the season of Advent may we each find a sojourner to share the longings of our soul, one to receive the whispers of our pain in the wait. Not friends for fixing but for shouldering hope and shifting the weight.
Many of you come here with burdens like mountains you can’t see your way through and I just wanted you to know what a privilege it is to intercede on your behalf. Let’s bare one another’s burdens, shall we?
Shelly, I love reading this….how truly good friends were able to put aside differences, and how your friend came through to help you in your pain. That has always happened in my life till very recently. THere is a near-life-long friendship in my life that has crashed in a heap on the side of the road, and to my knowledge, I was not the one who swerved. I have no idea what happened. My long-time friend hit and run, and nothing I do will cause her to come back and assess the damage. It’s very sad. But this post also reminds me of other precious friends who will “bare the burdens,” (I LOVE your clever play on “bare” here!), and it’s to those friends I can still open my heart. Thank you for also tor the privilege of doing that here. You are precious.
She made me realize that I need to be a better friend the way she was to me. That was another gift, that recognition. I hope you get closure on the friendship, that is a hard one, not knowing why.
I would like to have closure (and especially to know if I did something to offend so I could ask forgiveness…though I’m honestly not aware of any offense on my part, since our last meeting over a year ago was wonderful). But my repeated attempts to contact have proven in vain. At least, finally I got a polite “Dear Jane” letter, but when there was not so much a crack of a door opening and also no epxlanation, I knew when I read that that 37 years of friendship (truly close friendship) are over. It’s very painful (especially not knowing why), but I no longer have the strength to pursue it. And in the end, you can’t make someone respond. I must see this as an Ecclesiastes 3 situation……… There is a time for everything, including a time to let things lie (or die, as the case may be). Thank you for your kind words, Shelly, and I’m so glad that both you and she had the gifts of recognition and reconcilation.
This is so beautiful. We all do know at least one person we could call in the middle of the night. Would we? that is the deeper question, the fact that you did and risked her waking was a sign of real friendship.
I am glad it was restored for you.
Also glad your daughter was blessed in the process too.
It was a realization for me too in those moments Sharon. It is a good test of friendship, asking who you could call in a situation like that. And I want to be that kind of friend for someone too.
Sometimes it is these kinds of things that help us all realize what really matters. Advent is the season where we are reminded that Immanuel means “God is with us”. I pray you are held in the light…
So true Gayle, redemption lies around each corner of our difficulties because He is with us.
Isn’t it extraordinary that God finds beauty in our mess and sends healing in our pain? Thank God for Grace, and for your finding just the fellowship you needed when you needed it most.
How is Murielle healing? How are you? Remember to care for yourself.
Peace and good to you in Jesus’ name
We are good, and I mean that. She came home yesterday and cried about wishing she made different decisions that night but I think that is a healthy grieving process. We’ve both learned so much through this. For that I’m grateful.
Hi Shelly. I found your blog when someone shared it on FB. Thank you for your transparency and honesty…and using your God-given gift as a writer. I will be following you. I am writing a memoir blog about how God transformed my life and healed me from mental illness and a family legacy of suicide.
Thrilled to meet you. I would love to know who shared it. Look forward to checking out your blog too, it sounds like an inspiring story you have. Thank you for your kind comment and for the follow.
It was Lisa Luke Easterling 🙂
Hi, Shelly! I read this post with such a deep feeling of familiarity. I was very close with a woman friend for a number of years who was as close to me as a sister. Through a series of events we totally stopped talking and for two years neither one of us reached out. Finally I sent an e-mail or something not of great significance but she replied and that opened the room for us to share our feelings. It turned out that we both thought we had been abandoned and the pain was so deep that neither one of us dared reach out. After a few very honest e-mails we began to talk and forgiveness as only God can design happened and we are, if anything, closer. Both of us changed in good ways and our friendship is different with less demands and more joy. I am so grateful to God that He built a pathway for us to come back to each other so that we can share the strength that only women can bring into each other’s lives. Thank you for your honesty. God is a miracle working God and He loves us so much.
One of us has to be courageous enough to take the first step toward reconciliation. So glad you shared this Lark, its good to hear from you. Glad your friendship is restored.
Shelly, I just wanted to say thank you for the illumination your writing has given me during times I have not been able to see my way through. You are a true blessing to us in this community.
You’ve made my heart happy with your comment Emma and I’m truly humbled as well. Thank you.
I love your transparency. Your honesty and openness that gives the courage to face my own reality! Bless you dear friend.
I have to do it for me Barbie, write through to clarity and remembering is good, it grows my faith.
This is the hardest part of ministry for me, when relationships that I considered true friends are affected by things that happen at church. So blessed to read of a better ending in your situation, and still so grateful for God’s protection over your daughter.
I think its the hardest part for any of us in ministry Elizabeth, its just hard to get over being hurt by the very people you think understand the most.
Yes, although we might differ on many things…we were created unique after all….the unity in the Sweet Holy Spirit is what counts. That love that envelopes us!! Your sharing encourages us as well.
It does unify us indeed, and the enemy of the soul would like to deceive us into thinking differently.
Sometimes help comes from unassuming places. I have had my share of events when someone I was counting on ditched me but someone I had given up on took charge and helped me. Life runs its own course, we just tag along.
You reminded me of my wedding and the way my maid of honor disappointed me and a bridesmaid took over.
So glad your friend did not let the first no stop her…I had a similar story…saying no could have been tragic…after a brutal church blowup…many friendships where torn to pieces…years later a friend called to say she would like to pass down her daugther’s clothes(we both had late babies)…I declined…but the LOrd clearly spoke…”she is cracking the door…if you shut it…the blood will be on your hands”…I called her back and accepted…this cracked door led her eventually coming to my house sobbing and asking me for forgiveness…she came even though no one…even her husband wasn’t in the same place…but she had to come…we weep…we prayed and we hugged…6 weeks later she died… again…so glad for your friend…so glad she texted again and you called her back. blessings to you~
Glad you both took the crack in the door and didn’t let it close all the way.
Hi Shelly…In my experience, my oldest and dearest friend seems to be the one I have the most differences with. She and I have had many ups and downs through our 40 years. Even some pretty ugly confrontations. I have had to forgive…she has had to forgive. Yet, we hang in there, not only because our friendship is dear, but also because we are family at the same time. She suffers from bouts of deep depression and one summer a few years back, she attempted suicide twice. I saw my life without her, and I couldn’t stand the thought of it. It really broke me.
Through this one most precious friendship full of hard times, God has taught me unconditional love, acceptance of differences, forgiveness, compassion…the list goes on. He has used her significantly in my life…to change me. She’s the one I know I could call in the middle of the night. Thank you for your thoughts today. They’ve helped me to remember why she is the one friendship I never want to lose. She is the friend who “shoulders hope and shifts the weight” for me.
Sounds like you have a true friend there Jillie, through thick and thin.
Shelly, this makes me weepy in so many ways. Thank you for sharing your heart. Openly. I am sharing and also quoting you on my FB status. I am blessed and ministered by your post today…to many details to clarify. Just thank you.
Thanking God that it blessed you. Appreciate your kindness in sharing and hope you’ll continue to join the conversation.
So grateful for this, Shelly!
My daughter had a huge fight with her best friend this summer. The girl withdrew from school because of it. My daughter just decided to buy and send her a birthday/Christmas present and an apology note. I was overwhelmed at her generosity.
Wow, Megan. Just wow.
Nodding my head in unison with Nancy’s response Megan. Your daughter has good character. I can only imagine where she got that. 😉
We’ve had the same kind of tearing here, also from a church vote. It’s intentional but hard work to piece together relationships.
I keep looking back at your words here, and how at 1:30 in the morning, you still knew it was OK to call, even after such conflict. Deeper bonds run through such friendships, even if things are cracked and painful on the surface.
I didn’t know that about our friendship until this happened Jennifer. That’s where the redemption lies. So sorry to know you’ve just gone through the same thing with a church vote. It’s painful and a relief all at the same time. I want to get on with living and not be stuck in the cesspool of regret.
For two years, I was angry at members of my church who voted differently than I had about a pastor and his family for whom I cared very deeply. Two years.
This year our church hired a new associate pastor, and there was an overwhelming sense of humility, desire to seek the Lord’s leading in prayer, and near unanimity in the vote to call him. At his installation service, I found myself standing next to someone with whom I had been angry during those awful two years. And we were celebrating together.
And I thought, sometimes we sinful people, who are still so very much in process, have to slog through this awful stuff and then come out on the other side–so we can see that things like forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation are real things, and not just theological concepts.
I think that is really true Nancy. I’ve learned so much going through this, things I’m not sure I would’ve learned any other way. And of course hindsight is 20/20 but I’m grateful for the view, whatever the clarity.
I have the sense that I walk through life like a horse wearing blinders, seeing only what’s directly in front of me. I have the unfortunate tendency to get bent out of shape over something that’s just not worth it. I’m not suggesting that’s what happened in your situation, just explaining why I find this (your) story meaningful. I’m so glad the Lord made changes of perspective possible so your friendship could be preserved.
I’m still learning that I have blinders on at all. I’m grateful when I’m alert enough to recognize them.
I have no words for this. It brings up pain, and yet it speaks of healing.
Tracie, it is both isn’t it. But then again, that is also what Christ’s death on the cross represents, pain and healing all at the same time.