My best friend as a child was Roxanne, the daughter of our pastor. We were inseparable, riding to and from school together, attending the same class at school and Sunday School, playing together and even sitting together in church when our mothers allowed. We even dressed alike. One day we wore our matching dresses to school thinking that our teacher would be unable to tell us apart. We didn’t even think about the fact that Roxanne is blonde with blue eyes and I am brunette with green eyes. We were the best of friends.
When my Mom told me that Roxanne would be moving – going to a different school and a different church – I cried and cried. I couldn’t understand why I was losing my best friend. (I believe I also asked my parents if we could move, too.) However, the friendship formed in those first few years has given us a kinship that allows us to pick up the phone, regardless of distance and passage of time, and talk to each other as if we are still constantly together. We will always be best of friends.
Four years passed without a special friend. I had good friends with whom I played and talked and laughed. But no special kindred spirit. In eighth grade, a new girl came to church and it was as if we had known each other forever. Karen was like me in many ways, yet in other ways we were total opposites! It was this friendship that gave my dad the biggest headache because we could talk on the phone for hours. (We were in high school.) Even after years away at college and marriage and families, our friendship remained strong. When I moved home after ten years, we spoke on the phone as if no time had passed. I heard my dad ask my mom if that was Karen on the phone. She laughed, said yes, but how did he know? Dad replied that I’d been on the phone so long it could only be Karen! And then, Karen and her family moved away.
Throughout my life God has given me friends when I need them. Healing and adjusting after a difficult divorce God brought Sue into my life. We worked in Pioneer Girls and together we taught girls about God’s Word. God used Sue to remind me how much He loves me and to see myself through His eyes. She encouraged me as a single mom and often gave me the strength to keep going. It was a joy when I was able to encourage her as a new mom and help her enjoy her new daughters.
Another friend that God sent me taught me to do things. My personality is one that would prefer to stay home, rather than do something alone. (When you are a single mom, everything is done alone.) I don’t like new experiences and I don’t enjoy change. Arta came along side and motivated me to move. She encouraged me to serve at camp, attend concerts, plan field trips for Pioneer Girls, invite people to dinner, and even attend church functions. (There is nothing worse than attending a church function of all couples as a single.)
Then God gave me friends who taught me to laugh again. Laughing until I cried for pure joy renewed my spirit and made me a happier person. Major trips to St. Louis, Chicago and somewhere in Ohio became precious memories. Often these memories included my girls, a wonderful gift when you think of how difficult it is to do things alone with young children.
Another friend God sent was Jan. Our friendship grew out of an offer of “Is there anything I can do to help?” Slowly we laughed, worked and marched into a special friendship. And through this friendship, God allowed me to be there for Jan, when a job change for her husband meant days of being a single parent while he was on the road. We were able to spend time together, encouraging and supporting each other.
Entering a new stage of life (empty nest, higher age bracket) God sent me a friend in Marsha. She makes me think deeper. She helps me slow down and helps me not feel guilty when I do slow down! And she’s even willing to travel with me to out of the way places (think Nebraska) and make the trip fun and educational.
Over the years I have said goodbye to too many friends. Busy lifestyles, job changes, and life changes take friends out of contact. My heart has been broken over friendships that ended because of neglect. Other friendships have remained intact, simply through the concerted effort to get together over a simple meal, through book club, or over a glass of iced tea. There are so many different levels of friendship, so many blessings, so many gifts. And God has always known who and what I need when I need them.
While the list of people whom I consider friends is long, there are still times when I feel alone. When life gets busy, when families demand more time, when interests change, it can seem that all my friends have moved out of my life. And I feel alone.
I wondered why God didn’t send someone special for those times as well, when it hit me. He doesn’t need to send anyone, because He already sent His Son. I need to go through lonely times to focus my eyes on Him. To spend time with Him. To be thankful that He is a Friend who gave the ultimate – His life so I can live forever with Him. To be thankful that He is my Forever Friend.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.