A collection, a file of sorts sits in a box probably in storage. Neat rows of opened envelopes each with pages filled with thoughts and questions of my past written to my best friend.The letters and cards she had written to me are long gone in an apartment fire that happened early in my marriage. But to her, I sit in a shoe box or plastic container, she was a bit of an organized perfectionist, a little more OCD than she probably would ever admit. I sit there in storage waiting for her to find me when she moves again or cleans out a closet. I am only a memory now of the past we shared together through Junior High and High School.
We began molting our childish feathers and finding new wings. The wings of God’s calling flew me to Bible College. Her wings flew her to a town a couple of hours away from our hometown, where she pursued a degree at a popular college. Once we said good-bye to go to college our paths have only crossed a few times. She came to my college once on a weekend right after I had started school. Then, a few months after I was married my husband and I stopped by her parents’ house at Christmas knowing she would be there. We hung out and laughed hilariously together watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. The last time I spent time with her, I attended her college graduation with my oldest son but that was a bit awkward.
I still keep in touch with her mother but my attempts of writing letters like we did in high school have failed. This Christmas I gathered some courage, after not hearing from her in years, and sent a Christmas card with a photo of only myself inside. No response… To me it’s like the awful feeling of being dumped when you don’t know what you did wrong…
…I don’t think it is what I did wrong though, it was what I chose to do right. I followed God’s call and obeyed Him and what He wanted for me. When I went into her home when I went to her college graduation there were alcohol bottles everywhere used as decorations. She was also obviously uncomfortable that I was there seeing that. The red lights began to blink like when the guard comes down at a railroad crossing and it was obvious that our relationship would probably never be what it was in the past.
Thinking back, I am not even sure what our first words were to each other when we met in Sunday School in Junior High. We exchanged e-mail addresses and began writing lengthy e-mails about life as we knew it. I called her a “home school freak” because I was a public schooler. Home schooling and Christian school were foreign to me. Our church had a Christian school and I was one of a minority of public schoolers in the youth group, that is probably why we naturally gravitated to one another… we were outsiders to the clique.
By the time she had a car we went out almost every other weekend eating at our favorite restaurants and going to Barnes and Noble or the movies. We would go out toilet papering other people’s homes, we were roomies on our youth group trip to Mexico. She even fainted on me one time when were on a rafting trip with our youth group because she hadn’t eaten any of the food the whole time because she was pretty selective in her food choices, in other words picky. We were her older sister’s bridesmaids and we shared our graduation party together at her parents’ house. We were close and could always speak in written form on the deepest subjects but face to face we had obstacles revealing who we really were and wished to become. I hid a lot of my bad choices I was making with my other friends at school away from her. I believe she hid the things she wanted to do but couldn’t.
I made some poor choices back then, sin’s temptations lured me in and I failed many times. But it was God that was still moving in my heart back then and getting me ready to be molded and changed for today. I have close friends now, God brought His replacements in when I had a need for good friends. (I love you guys!)
No one writes to me like she wrote me… and I still mourn the lost friendship. It’s been over 10 years now.
Her mom told me one day that she thought she would come back to our friendship some day because she still keeps my letters. That one day when she is married she will understand more about me and my life.
My whirlwind marriage kind of freaked her out…she was never one that embraced change willingly. One day I had to come to grips that she may never come back. I may always be a box full of letters and photos to her from now on. But I still wait, hoping with an open door to my heart that one day I will no longer be rejected for who God wanted and has changed me to be. Yes my life is different, yes God is the center of my life, but I still laugh and cry. I still need friends and love fun. I have a husband and kids but still am a Joe-normal person on the inside. Sometimes I think people forget that God’s servants may leave many things that were once dear to their hearts behind to come and serve them. The facts are that when you separate yourself unto Christ and decide to follow Him, sometimes is separates you from those dearest to you.
She gave me a card once that had a girl in a life jacket on the front and it said “If we were on a ship and there was only one life jacket…” you opened the card and it read, “I’d miss you heaps and think of you often.” It was very funny because that was just the kind of humor in our relationship. It kind of rings true in my heart though, I miss her heaps and think of her often, but I’ve left the door open so that if she wants to come back she can.
We see families in our churches leave for whatever reason and it can be painful to watch as they make a decision to go to another church or choose to serve God a little less. It hurts because a ministry mama’s life is spent investing in the lives of parents and their children when you serve them in church activities, Sunday School, and the nursery. We can be tempted to carry bitterness toward them for walking away and sometimes leaving us hanging when they leave their ministry positions behind without a second thought or explanation. I am going to urge you and myself to leave the door open!!
Give yourself peace, so that when you run into them at the grocery store or the park, that you can still greet them with a smile and genuinely care about how they are doing. Then, if it ever happens that they come back to your church, you can welcome them without a grudge or root of bitterness inside. Some people may never come back and you may always feel that sadness, just miss them heaps and pray for them often!
Loss seems to be something that goes with ministry but I never want to get a hard heart and expect that people are always going to disappoint or leave. Our pastor gave a good point in a recent message, “Only expect out of people, what God expects out of people.” You have probably heard the saying that people are in our lives for a reason, season, or a lifetime. The relationships we have with members of our churches do evolve, we may be burdened to pray for and help a certain person one month and then God will bring a new person to help and pray for into your life the next. We are growing, changing, struggling, and should always be changing to become like Christ, and other people are doing the same things in their lives. Give people a little slack…
Did you ever think, Christ did not only leave the door open for us, He came knocking on our heart’s door!
Following Christ’s call is not always easy. It may cost much. And we may have holes of sadness, like how I miss my friend, but God’s friendship is greater than any earthly friendship or relationship. While I hope for my friend to return, I look forward to Christ’s return because even though I have never met Him there are times I miss Him heaps and deeply long to be with Him face-to-face. So, if you take anything away from this I encourage you to let go of bitterness toward those that may walk away and Leave the Door Open!
Dear friend, if you are out there reading this. The door’s open and like Motel 6, I’ve left the light on for ya. And yes, I really do miss you heaps and think of you often!