Growing up, I had various groups of friends. There were my neighborhood friends, who lived 30-seconds down the road, whereas my school friends were at least 30 minutes away. Church friends came in and out of my life on Sunday mornings, and I played soccer with another group of friends throughout the week. I liked all of my friends, but I never really put forth an effort to be with them outside of our designated activities. At that point in my life, I didn’t realize that time and energy is necessary for friendships to endure past the fifth grade.
Things started getting tricky when I left for college. Suddenly, I had friends around Texas, and when I started traveling to different countries, I had friends not just all over America, but also all over the world. From Colombia to Serbia to India, California to Alabama to New Jersey, and all places in between, I have come to realize that my heart has pieces strewn throughout the globe. I’m pretty sure that if you catch me zoning out, I’ve probably traveled somewhere distant in my mind to be with a friend or two.
I have found that people who walk through the tough stuff are the ones who will stick together for as long as time keeps ticking. Not to say friendships in your life during the easy times don’t last, but there is something about the depth that results when friends carry on through the messes of life.
You might already recognize a few of these friendships. The ones you’ve only known for a few weeks and aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves, get a layer of grime under their nails and in their skin, and find a semi-clean shirt in the middle of a foreign country so you can muffle your cries in the dead of the night. The people who, though they should be asleep, will stay up with you while you are getting over jet lag or a waterborne illness or a boy you love. The friend who embraces and loves your family even though your Grandpa says the most embarrassing and awkward things to her, making you think that was the final straw for her.
But it’s that selfless kind of friendship that comes maybe a handful of times throughout life that you might let pass by because it seems too good to be true. You let them into your world a little at a time, waiting to learn if they’re patient enough or graceful enough or forgiving enough to rough it out with you. You try to push them away, ridiculously testing them to see if they’ll fight for you, to see if they actually want this friendship with you.
I’m blessed to say I have a few of those friendships. This past weekend, two of my good friends left the deathly snow and cold of a northeastern winter, hopped on a plane, and embraced the beauty that is Texas in February.
This time last year, the three of us were living in a dirty flat in the middle of India. Since then, these two women have come to understand how to love me well, see me the way God sees me, and know the deepest parts of my heart. They believe in me and the dreams God has placed in me. They cry with me, laugh with me, fight with me, and are quiet with me.
This past weekend they sacrificially took time off work and came to Texas to spend four days in my hometown with my family, friends, and dogs. We played cards, drank wine, and had entirely too much chocolate. We stayed up at night to share the depths of our hearts and woke up late in the mornings to share cups of coffee. I introduced them to Tex-Mex, ribs, and World Market, and showed them the best parks to swing on swings at. We shopped, ate, laughed, cried, and prayed…in person…for the first time in months.
Some people would call this my community; others might say we did life together this weekend. Honestly though, we are just a few friends who have walked through the muck and mire, who love each other, and who want to spend time together. I believe God intentionally places certain people in our lives that are meant to be long lasting, to stand tall when we can’t, and to go wherever we may be to experience the richness that comes when God’s people join together for each other.
Do you have one of these friendships? If so, do they know how much they mean to you today? Or if not, what’s keeping you from embracing the beauty of a friendship like this?