This friend is in a small circle of women who I let in on the details of my life. I mean the gritty details. My true unfiltered feelings. My ugly crying and occasional swearing. I've yelled and screamed and sobbed with her. Once when life was really messy, she talked me into going home while I walked around my neighborhood after a run, refusing to go home. She has dropped everything for me more times than I can count. She has been with me on the very worst days of my life. And she always, always, always points me back to Jesus. Always.
Sitting on her patio the other day, I couldn't help but cry. Remembering when we'd first met at BSF almost nine years ago. We had these lives back then. Charming suburban lives. Beautiful house, nice neighborhood, cute kid, hardworking husband, stay at home mom, Bible study, wrap it up with a bow, pretty package lives. We didn't really know suffering or trials or brokenness. Young moms who talked on the phone about preschools, nap times and avoiding germs.
It didn't take long before things started to get real. Her family was called to foster care. The twists and turns of that journey have brought joy and heartache that they never could have foreseen. I was walking out a broken and reconciled marriage, then a shattered marriage, divorce and single momhood. And in the midst of those major story lines were the simple everyday moments, bitter, sweet, extraordinary and mundane moments that make up a life.
I looked at my dear friend sitting across from me, listening to our 9 (yes, nine!) kids playing together, and was overcome with God's goodness. Sometimes, when we are drowning in the difficult, it feels impossible to take a breath. The waves of sorrow overtake us and seem to pull us under. We wonder how there could ever be an end to the pain - let alone purpose to any of it or even the hope of redemption.
Yet, there is relief. There is purpose. And there is so much redemption. God comforts us in our suffering so we can comfort others in theirs.
My friend's path and mine have been so different. Our journeys are not identical by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, this woman has spurred me on. As the Lord has comforted her in her troubles, she has been able to turn around and offer that same comfort to me in mine. I see a woman transformed by the Lord through the trials. I see wisdom gained and Christlikeness emerging. And, I was overwhelmed by all that God has done in, for and through my dear friend.
If we'd known. If we'd known the pain and the gut-wrenching sobs, the trials and the sleepless nights. If we'd known the paths the Lord had set before us. We never would have taken them. Heck no. I mean, we were moms who were terrified of our kids just getting the occasional virus.
But we were forced to walk by faith and I'm so grateful for it. I'm so grateful that God had bigger plans than we could have imagined. I'm so glad that we suffered and walked through hardship with Jesus. It's not the Christian life that either of us imagined. We've lost those lives over the years. But in losing our lives, we found them. In letting those lives die, seeds were planted and took root and brought forth new, beautiful life with deep roots in Jesus.