On my 30th birthday my best friend (JLW) rang me. It was not a call to wish me a happy birthday, in the busyness of the run up to Christmas with her one-year-old my birthday had slipped her mind. The fact my birthday had slipped her mind was not important. When she apologised for forgetting I knew she genuinely meant it. That’s part of our friendship, being ready to apologise and forgive.
Something JLW said to me during that call stuck. She told me I was her most ‘God-like’ friend, loyal, trustworthy, unchanging in my friendship and ready to forgive. I was pleased to know that is how she sees me, even though it made me wonder about other friendships. Friendships missed, lost and gone but not forgotten.
I was already 21 when I met JLW and had not had a ‘real’ friend my own age for about ten years, since leaving primary school. There was AMW (not related to JLW) who I had known for about twelve years and counted as a friend for six, but she could not be the ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ kind of friend I needed. She is loving and so much fun as a friend, but she has Down Syndrome.
I went through the ‘Steps to Freedom in Christ’ with CellMum and GlassPainter and at the end of that they, with God’s guidance, identified my need for a real ‘caring, sharing’ friend. They prayed for that friend for me and I went away not expecting much to come of it. God showed me he really is able to do more than we ask or imagine.
It was less than a month after the prayer was prayed. I had been out with GlassPainter walking a gorgeous dog called Milly for friends of hers. We had talked about things and she had mentioned the friend she felt sure God would bring me. On the walk I had dismissed the whole idea that God would bring me this friend, never saying so to GlassPainter. It was just a normal Sunday I had sat with 1of4 on my lap for most of the church service until she went out to creche. I had noticed a new couple at church with their grown up daughter but not been overly interested. At the end of the service though watching my sister talk to this new young woman I saw that she was friendly and that my sister was getting on quite well with her. I went over and my sister introduced me. The new young woman was JLW (or JLL as she was then). We started to make friends at church and then CellMum asked JLW to join our youth cell. I found out that the dog, Milly, was JLW’s family pet. From the seed that was planted when CellMum and GlassPainter prayed a friendship began to grow. It took a long time for me to start to open up with JLW and she was patient with me. It took time but we started to open up to each other and to become real friends.
My friendship with JLW brought other blessings. Somehow when she stepped through the door into friendship with me she had opened a door that had been shut tight for over eleven years, a door that went deeper than any of the superficial ‘friendships’ I had tried to form. She found a way into my heart that no one had found for a long time, and left it open. In time LCT and LAD followed her through and while they never went quite as far as JLW did and have stepped back slightly over time I still count them my friends. There is one who followed every step of the path JLW opened and that is JK (and yes, the first initials stand for the same name). For (need to check in my journal and amend) years both Js have been the best friends I could ever have wished for.
JLW taught me so much about friendship, much of it by accident through the twists and turns her path has taken. I have learnt what it means to be there (and really be there) for a friend who is hurting, I have learnt what it feels like to know that friend is there for you when you hurt. I have learnt the give and take nature of relationship and have learnt what happens when friends hurt each other. I have learnt what it means to forgive and be forgiven.
One thing JLW has taught me well is that friends can still be friends despite a distance of over 130 miles between us. I was scared that because I had let myself love JLW that when she moved away I would lose her. My first best friend, Bryony, had been lost that way and I had lost others that I had loved. When JLW moved from York to the Borders to live near her God-given man (who I will call MountainMan) I thought that would be it. She would spend time with MountainMan and his friends and she would forget me.It has been 4 years now and MountainMan changed her last intial 3 years and two weeks ago. Their daughter is 16 months old and beautiful. Twelve days ago I sat in JLW’s sister’s living room with JLW, her sister and my brother watching JLW’s daughter play. JLW and I are still friends, it’s easy to pick up again and be the way we always were. She is going to be 2nd bridesmaid at my upcoming wedding with her daughter as flower girl.
I’m now able to build friendships with people that are about loyalty and being there no matter what, that are about investing time and energy to make it work. Thanks to God and JLW I know now that my friends can be my greatest allies and best blessings. I understand that God uses people to bless us and to help us on our way along life’s rollercoaster roads. I’m glad and so thankful that he does.
Without God bringing JLW into my life I would be such a different person now. Because that door was unlocked and left open JLW and JK are and always will be an important part of my life, I have been able to build a friendship that blossomed into romance and a promise of forever with my fiance and I can appreciate when people say that some friends are just for a season. I am so thankful that God blessed me with such great mentors in CellMum and GlassPainter.
I know that ‘Friends are friends forever if the the Lord’s the lord of them.’ I trust it and believe it because of the friends I have now. The friends I lost along the way, the ones I missed because my blinkers were on may have just been lessons I had to learn, but something tells me that it was all in God’s plan. One friend I thought I had lost forever, the last friend I had ten years before JLW, is back in touch with me. Hopefully OldestFriend can be at my wedding too, but if not that’s okay because at least I know some things we may think are lost are only misplaced and can be found again.
My friends have helped to fix the broken me a bit, and while I still have a way to go I know that they will be there every step of the way. If you are one of those friends I want to say thank you and to let you know you will always have a friend in me 🙂