We were relatively new to the neighborhood, but several of the little girls were meeting on the porch across the street. Adorable with their ruffly clothes and pony-tailed curls, they brushed their dolls’ hair lovingly as they chatted. Bella had just arrived with her puppy backpack. I don’t think her own hair had been brushed since the day before. I heard one of the little friends greet her and ask if she had “an American Girl doll.” I did not hear Bella’s reply, but watched her enthusiastically drop to the ground, unzip her backpack, and triumphantly produce “Snakey”–the articulated wooden snake she’d chosen from Chinatown. Bless them, the girls went with it. Friends do that.
I have found my “movie friends”–the one or two who get into crazy predicaments and throw out fabulous one liners, who stick by you when times are stupid or hard, who make you laugh till you pee when you really just want to throw yourself out a window, who make you feel like the best version of yourself, and who can sit with you and be ok with your weird inner world.
I’m an introvert. I do Alone well. I enjoy Alone.
So this is the furthest from The Shire I’ve ever been. I’m going to miss some people. Three people. So much.
Let’s be real, I miss my friends who are far away. But somehow this is different.
Maybe it’s because I’m the one not going anywhere and the three of them are leaving. A Diaspora of Awesome, if you will.
There are three women I’ve laughed with here whom I will miss in a bone-deep way. Three women to whom I’ve actually bonded the way I imagine people bond with friends in high school or college. Three women whom I would totally watch a movie about.
I was in a Bible study for a few months that turned out to be my jam. I can’t even really explain why–on the page it looked very clearly laid out and logical but when I read the assignment each week I felt like it was completely formless and required flying by the seat of one’s pants. Essentially, it was precisely how my students must have felt when I gave them assignments in Freshman Composition classes. Made both no sense and all the sense to me.
I’ve been able to process and write in a way I haven’t felt able to in a while. And I’ve had a wonderful sort of anticipation with each assignment. Like God was going to really show me something each time.
So with the last week of class I was pretty pumped. I told God that I would like to read something about friends and saying goodbye and having peace and not being sad and getting brave. Annnnnnnnd go!
For three days.
Not gonna lie, was pretty disappointed. Thanks a lot, God.
The next morning I resorted to sullenly flipping through my Bible. My eye dropped to the bottom edge of a page and saw “But even if he does not…” There’s a song I love of late and that phrase is the main chorus, so I stopped to see what was happening here.
It was about Daniel.
And his three friends–Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
In a nutshell, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown in a fiery furnace which had been heated to seven times its normal heat (cuz a regular people-burning-furnace wasn’t enough…) when they would not serve false gods. They speak as a unit; there are no individual lines from each of them. They don’t know that God WILL save them, only that He CAN. And that’s enough for them.
Now. There are plenty of individual lines from my friends and me. And they are brilliant. None of us has known what will happen next,
and we’ve had plenty to say about how jacked up a few things have been. But as a unit, and as part of an even greater unit, we’ve been able to wait. To not act too rashly. To remind each other that God can do this thing, but even if He does not, we will not give up our hope in Him.
Wednesday has been my other Sunday. It’s been how I pace and center and recharge and motivate. But with a lot more communion. And a tiny bit of cussing.
We’ve all been here less than a year. We’ve really only been getting together for a few months but the fire has been heated to seven times its normal heat. Bad stuff has gone down while we’ve been here. Broken spines and major surgeries, reoccurring illnesses, peeing blood, shingles, disturbing revelations–and that’s just my house. My three friends have had even more intense issues thrown at them. But, for me, knowing I will see them Wednesday, have a glass or nine of something festive, listen to their stories, and tell them mine, anchors my week.
I don’t know how the silver refining process works. I looked up a few things on the internet and I still don’t really have anything. I thought it would be a great metaphor of transformation from bits of metal and ore or whatever to this beautiful valuable silver after going through the fires. Dude. There are alloys, coppers, sulfides, light measurements, assaying techniques–forget it. I’m not skilled enough to make any of that mean my friends are beautiful and precious and strong.
So let me just tell you: My friends are Beautiful and Precious and Strong.
Jesus is absolutely my anchor, but these people have been the links connecting me more securely to Him. As much as I will miss their presence, these friends leave me with powerful outlines on my heart’s wall. Being blasted in a furnace leaves marks and I hope I never stop trying to walk like they do–with courageous and quiet strength, enduring and focused intensity, and an all encompassing joy and energy to not only do battle with this life like Boudica on speed but also to love the journey and infuse every person encountered with encouragement and hope and proof that the fire can always get hotter and the seas can always get rougher, but the Anchor will take the heat. The Anchor will hold.