After my husband and I missed five straight weeks of attending church and our Sunday
school class, two emails from two different class members on two consecutive days appeared in my inbox. Both contained the same sentiment, “We miss you. Are you okay?”
Tears came unexpectedly with a painful memory from when I was eleven years old. In
the middle of an elementary school hallway, walking to class with my best friend. She turned to me and said, “I can’t be your friend anymore. I’m going to be friends with Mary.”
Just like that. She peeled off and weaved her way through the crowd, hailing Mary to wait up. I don’t know how long I stood there in silence with other fifth and sixth graders jostling past me and straining to grasp what just happened. We never talked again for me to ask if I’d said or done something to offend her. Years later someone suggested pubescent hormones were at the root of her cutting our ties. Nevertheless, my best friend severed the moorings that anchored my fragile sense of belonging and left me to drift alone. I no longer belonged.
Until a few months later. In that same hallway. Another girl, Sherry, reached out to me. She sat by me at lunch where we laughed at each other other’s jokes. We bemoaned PE together. We plotted how to get our moms to let us shop the mall alone. She admired my new clothes and invited me to her birthday party.
And when my family moved three states away right before my 14th birthday, Sherry threw
me a surprise going away party. We kept up correspondence through high school, but eventually lost contact during college as life took us down different roads. Yet, for that crucial season when I needed to belong, I had the root of her friendship from which I could grow. My friend missed me when I wasn’t around. Like with my Sunday school friends now, who came looking for me when I’d gone MIA too long.
In those two emails, I saw the face of Jesus. I saw the shepherd who left 99 sheep to go after the one lost from the group. The woman who turned her house upside down looking for a lost coin and then invited her friends to rejoice when she found it. And the father who didn’t care that his son squandered his inheritance. He only cared that the son returned.
My pain from the past testifies to me what a treasure I now have in friends. Like the one who knitted me a frilly boa just because she imagined me wearing one when I wrote. Or the friends who listened while I talked through my tears in difficult and joyous moments. Or the one with whom I connected during a job change and who still jots me long letters just to say “hi.” Or the ones who emailed me to say I am missed. They renew my strength by reminding me, I belong.
There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a
brother. (Proverbs 18:24, NLT)
©2011 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.