Every other week we come together. Some of us come from the gym or work or home where we’ve left our children the moment our husbands arrived, or cobbled something together quickly and instructed the teens not to leave a mess in the kitchen lest they die.
Sometimes we eat dinner. We always have cookies.
We drag tables together and talk too loudly. We share our days, our struggles, our flaws and imperfections and hopes and dreams, sometimes all in one long sentence. We’ve met in church basements and college coffee houses and most recently at a locally owned sandwich shop which also sells cheesecake (and the aforementioned cookies) that makes my tongue happy to be alive.
We read things we shouldn’t, things which make us think and question and evaluate. Together we’ve loved our neighbor and each other and, at least for me, loved ourselves a little better.
Sometimes we disagree – vehemently.
It’s been nearly two years since I took the brave step of asking people, some of whom I barely knew, if they wanted to read something together which might make us a little unsettled and uncomfortable, and maybe even dare to live it. We’ve been reading and living together ever since.
I never really expected more than a season, a few short weeks during the summer months when life seems more accommodating to social gathering. What I found instead was a fierce and fascinating mix of experiences and emotion and faith journeys, and a powerful force for compassion and change. I found lives completely unlike mine, but who made my life more complete by being part of it.
Early on, one of our members dubbed us Renegades for Jesus, and we’ve claimed the name ever since.
This wonderful group of women came to me at a time when much of my life was a hard and painful mess. They’ve loved me through my brother’s and my mother’s cancer, walked with me through my on-going faith shift, and supported me through mission trips, mountain climbs and half marathons. Their love is untiring, the depths bottomless — and believe me, I’ve tried, unconsciously, to find its limit.
Sometimes I have a hard time with women and friendship. I’m not very good at small talk. I’m not interested in most cultural ‘girl activities’ and, astonishingly, most people aren’t necessarily comfortable opening a conversation with, “So what ways has life really ground your heart down to a bruised pile of rubble recently?”
But in spite of all my issues and barricades, God snuck an entire team of support in the back door, bypassing small talk and setting us up for near instant intimacy in unexpected ways. In the moments when I most needed a community, God had already prepared one for me. I never even had a chance to protest I could handle life better alone.
Whether you make friends as easily as breathing, or you are more like me and have a smaller social circle cultivated slowly, intimate friendships are crucial to our mental and emotional health. When the shoe drops or the sky falls or whatever other cliché we use to make our difficult times more palatable, we need to know there are friends who will enter the mess with us and sit awhile, the ones who will be there when we are ready to sort out the pieces.
I didn’t know two years ago how much I would need to be carried, but God did, and He chose unlikely, imperfect people to be my strong arms.
Maybe you’re looking around and wishing you had those kinds of friends in your life as well, so let me be honest; sometimes, I miss the miracle of the relationships already placed squarely in the middle of my heart because I’m so busy comparing my relationship with everyone else’s relationships. I sometimes lose the beautiful reality of what I have in the ridiculous illusion of what friendship “should be.”
Sometimes I’m so self-involved I don’t even recognize the incredible abundance of love and friendship I am receiving every single day, in the most beautiful, unassuming ways.
God bless those crazy friends of mine, they’ll keep loving me in spite of those flaws too.
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