I went to Panera’s after church on Sunday with my dearest friends.
While two of us joked about how the cashier had butchered our names the last time we were here, the third confessed that she always gave a false name when asked by restaurateurs: the stranger, the better.
JoJo. Winifred. Mary, Queen of Scots.
It had gotten to the point that when a waiter called out one of her ridiculous pseudonyms, her family would knowingly look over at her and roll their eyes.
Of course, we played along.
Joining our friend in this harmless game, we were further rewarded with a bored young cashier with a flair for creative spelling.
It’s good to laugh with friends who get you.
You see, we had just come from a church service that had emptied my very soul.
A week filled with dark dreams, children dealing with injuries and illnesses and hard choices, and pondering the fate of my boy who was gone had left me raw, vulnerable.
Church is perhaps the best place to be in such a state, and when one of the elders’ wives asked if there were anyone present in a state of deep lament, I felt she had peeled back the very layers of my heart and exposed the dendrites of loss and loneliness, doubt and ache.
My friends surrounded me as I sat, sobbing, a balled up kleenex in my fist, and spoke over me the truth I desperately needed to hear. Who else would sit on a cold concrete floor at your feet while your face leaked, wrap your knees in firm embrace, weep and intercede for you with groans that words cannot express? (Romans 8:26)
There’s a verse in the Bible about friendship that I call to mind when I consider these women: A person of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)
True friends are family.
I feel so blessed for the dear friends, sisters, in my life, who have stuck by me when it would have been easier to run.
The ones who propped me up through divorce and death, the ones who cooked my family meals, bought me flowers, and helped pack up my house when moving was the last thing I wanted to do. Ones who text me still with “I remember’s” and nostalgic photographs, work out beside me, or meet me at restaurants despite the distance or time. Ones who don’t mind when you invite yourself over to the Superbowl party they didn’t even know they were hosting.
Jesus called his disciples friends.
Us: not servants who do not know their master’s business, but dearly chosen friends to whom He can trust with the heart of the Father and whom He has appointed to bear fruit for His kingdom. (John15:15,16)
And not only that – as if that were not enough – our intimacy with Jesus gives us an all-access pass to the Father. So when we bring our children, our marriages, our jobs, our health, when we bring whatever it is we are in need of, whether in despair or hope or doubt or trust, to Him in prayer, Jesus promises that whatever we ask in His name the Father will give us. (John 15:16)
As the three of us sat drinking our coffee and nibbling our toast, I marveled at how it was only the beginning; our friendship was not something even death could end.
I expect the neighborhood we lived in together on earth, our families entwined in an elegant dance of love and struggle, is only a dim foreshadow of the place that has been prepared for us by our loving Father in heaven.
So even though my one friend craves the dry heat of the American Southwest, where she can wear a sweatshirt when it’s 80 degrees outside, the other dreams of a day when she can power out of her crazy driveway on the first try, and I – I am content with the seasons that usher in a new just when it is needed most – even though the vision of our heavenly homes is as distinct as we are – I am thankful that all eternity awaits for us to finish conversations and sip tea and ponder the wisdom and love of a Father who had the good sense to make us all friends.