Yesterday I stood in the sunlight at the curb, saying a last few words to a friend after a pleasant hour's visit at her dining room table in the City (the nearby City). When I call her "friend", I almost feel as if I should capitalize the word. Friend. She's my Friend.
Each one of us has numerous friends around us...people whose circle of life overlaps with our own personal circle. People with whom we may work, play, volunteer, worship, or even email. People we see daily and people we have never seen (the email buddies). Some friends are "friends". Some are "Friends".
Let's go back nearly 25 years when this Friend and I went through some hard times together. She lived two houses down from me and her daughter and my daughter were two skinny little kids who spent every possible moment together, building blanket tents in the backyard, riding their bikes around town, and once, wading through floodwater downtown after an unexpected 10-inch rain. Her daughter still lives nearby. My daughter has moved on to the City, the Big City, which means a five-hour drive when she visits us or we visit her. I'm thankful it's not a ten-hour drive.
My Friend's husband was a louse. Worse than a louse. A scruvy, cruddy, rotten shell of a man who later spent some time in prison and returned, unreformed and unchanged. He's still scurvy and rotten. In my own marriage I had suddenly discovered that my then-husband was no better. Worse. Rottenly worse. He, too, should have spent time in prison. A long time in prison. He's dead now. 'Nuff said.
So my Friend and I both left, taking our respective kids, moving into new lodgings. She found a small house across town, which in our little town wasn't very far, a matter of a few blocks. My daughter and I moved into an upper floor apartment a few blocks in the other direction. Regardless of our shared lack-of-wisdom, we both loved our kids more than anything. We loved our kids. Neither one of us was very old, not as wise as we should have been, but doing the best we knew how under the circumstances.
For some time after the "Leaving", we were often together. We were both going through the same fire and we often sat at the kitchen table (hers or mine) sharing what was happening in our lives, chattering on and on. Sometimes crying. Sometimes laughing. Sometimes quiet.
Life went on. Our children grew up. I retired. She moved to the City and continues to work. We seldom see each other anymore.
But yesterday, while in the City on another errand, I called my Friend and asked if she had any coffee. She responded with, "I'll make a fresh pot." It doesn't make any difference if I haven't seen my Friend for years ...we start up our conversation as easily as if we saw each other only yesterday. We talk about our lives, past and present, and we laugh. We laugh a lot. And we are grateful that we are where we are today, and not where we were way back then. We still love our kids and we talk about them.
Not many people know my Friend as well as I do. She is awkward in her speech and mannerisms. While she is good at her job, working in a large office, her relational skills are somewhat stilted. I know her co-workers do not see the Friend that I see. I know that they think she is "different". And they don't appreciate her good qualities. They see only her deficiencies and lacks. They don't see "Friend".
My Friend believes in God. She understands the Gospel. But she doesn't go to church. She's afraid to go to church. When she left her scurvy, cruddy, rotten husband the "church" counseled her to reconcile with him. She couldn't see how they could do that, to require her to stay with this man who destroyed everything he touched. But we talked about that. And I mentioned a local church that I feel is doctrinally sound, telling her that if she ever decides to go, to call me. And I'll walk in with her. My Friend needs people who will love her.
Before I get up to leave, she showed me around her little house in the City where she lives by herself. It's a nice little house with a nice little backyard. Room enough for her, two dogs, and a cat. An open attic where her youngest son stayed before he was arrested for drugs and went to prison. (My friend's life has lots of sad stories.) A small basement. Plenty of room. Then she walked me to the curb where my car was parked and we stood in the autumn sunshine filtering through the leaves of the tree across the street. We stood there and talked some more. It was a good moment.
My Friend is a good friend. She likes me no matter what. In spite of my flaws and sins and stupidity at times. And I like her, in spite of the same.
Proverbs 18:24 A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.