I’ve shared countless fun times with my friends; my heart holds wall-to-wall memories of laughter, great experiences, exciting moments.
Like the lunch hours and Friday nights Shari and I spent together doing nothing special but laughing ‘til our stomachs hurt. Or the time Terry got called on stage during a fiesta in Mexico, de-shirted and plunked into a lineup from which his wife had to pick him out -- blindfolded. And the endless times Sara encouraged me to try wakeboarding. Then the moment, a year later, when she cheered as I finally got up on the blasted thing.
Rafting, camping, girl’s weekends, road trips, parties, celebrations. Fun, yes. Memorable, definitely.
Significant? I’m not so sure.
For when I try to recall the most meaningful moments of friendship in my life, it isn’t the fun times that first come to mind, even though images of them fill the pages of my photo albums. Instead, the moments that rise to the top of my memory are those which were baptized in sorrow, washed in tears and indelibly engraved on my heart.
Like the time Katie refused to avoid me like my other co-workers when I was downsized from a position of management to support staff … when Sue held me as I wept and lamented over the painful act of obedience God was calling me to … when Heather continually called and visited in spite of the pain, while Glenn and I waited for our unborn baby’s heart to stop beating … when Shari sat at my feet as I rocked my tiny stillborn daughter and then bravely asked if she could hold her for a moment … when Terry trusted me above all others to care for his children during the sudden and ugly breakup of his marriage … when Heather came over for my comfort and counsel knowing a difficult choice she’d made was only beginning to press on her life … when Salena asked me to forgive her anger when I revealed the truth about her husband’s infidelity … when Eva prayed with me in the moment I realized God was asking me to forgive my father … when Christine told me she felt rejected by her sister … when Sara let let me try and comfort her after she and her husband heard the news of their own unborn daughter’s demise … when Barbara told me she thought her husband was having an affair … when Tracy came to my house to cry after learning her mother would need yet another surgery … when Susannah listened and cried with me the day my mother told me she was moving out of state to be closer to her friends … when Lisa revealed in a shaky voice that she didn’t know how to deal with her son’s rage and wondered if adopting him had been a mistake ...
These are the moments in my life that come to the surface when I read the first chapter of Job, consider Naomi's grief and her daughter-in-law's sacrifice in the pages of Ruth, or ponder Jesus’ hesitation to heal his dying friend Lazarus in the 11th chapter of John.
Why is it that these grief-filled moments come to the front of my memory more easily than the fun times; why is it that I don’t have to think too hard to recall them? Is it because in these moments of frightening depth and paralyzing darkness, when we are most afraid to move, that we best sense the presence of God? Is it because in these times, when we are still enough to receive the compassion of others, or bold enough to reach out to someone else, that we are truly alive, truly experiencing the healing touch of Jesus?
Where would friendship be without these cold waters to draw us together? Without the bone-chilling, lonely moments that force us to reach out would our needy hearts ever be sincere? Our connections ever truly and tightly bound?
Is it just me, or do my friends remember and treasure these moments also? If pressed, would they define our friendship by the light moments we’ve shared, or those we’ve experienced in the deep, dark waters of sorrow?
I wonder. Then, I realize I’ve never told my friends how precious their tears have been to me; how sacred their trust. And I am moved to tell them, to write them, to call them and let them know.
Then I hesitate.
Perhaps these fleeting moments that chained us together are mutual and yet personal. Do my friends really want to be reminded of such dark moments?
I resolve to just be thankful for the opportunities I've had to divide sorrow with my friends, and in the process, experience Divine Love.
Still waters run deep for a reason, I decide.
Perhaps it’s best that way.