The knock at the door was followed immediately by a yell.
“I have a smoothie for you!” My friend Katie was at my seminary apartment uninvited. Again. Katie always seemed to forget that I’m an introvert.
(Pretty sure that “introvert” is just Latin for “call before you come over.”)
She handed me a blueberry-yogurt-pineapple concoction and plopped down on my sofa.
“Wanna watch some West Wing?” she asked. I stood in the doorway, shifting from foot to foot. She seemed intent on staying.
That year of seminary had been rough. In September my husband began a PhD program four states away, so I lived alone in our apartment. To make ends meet I worked three jobs in addition to my studies, leaving early, coming home late, and eating fast food from the Wendy’s next door more often than I’d care to admit.
It’d been a long six months of geographical separation from Daryl, and now spring midterm exams loomed. To make it even more miserable for this displaced Wisconsinite, temperatures were in the high eighties, but the seminary wouldn’t turn the air conditioning on in our housing until May.
Between the heat, the studies, the work, and the faraway husband, I felt lonely and exhausted. I started doing what I do best in anxious times: turning into a hermit crab.
“I have to study,” I told Katie.
“Yep,” she said, taking off her backpack. “Me too. That’s why I brought my Hebrew homework.” She plopped a stack of books on the coffee table and looked at me expectantly. “West Wing?”
That semester Katie saved me from a deep sadness of soul. Being so far from Daryl was hard. Working three jobs to make ends meet was exhausting. Learning Hebrew nearly made my brain explode.
Through smoothies and West Wing reruns and brown bag lunches at the seminary cafeteria, she helped me down the homestretch of my final year of seminary. In seasons of stress introverts crawl into their shells. Extraverts go looking for new friends. Guess which one Katie was?
Perhaps there is a season in your life where you can point to a particular friend and say, “She saved me.” “He carried me.” “That group of friends? They got me through.”
In 1 Samuel 18, Scripture describes King David and Jonathan, son of King Saul, as friends who are closer than brothers:
Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.
Do you have a friend like that?
Katie taught me that friends, true friends, are hard to come by, but when you find them (or, in my case with Katie, they find you) they are like gold.
I’ve moved away since seminary, as has Katie. But one of the beautiful things about friendship is that it has varying seasons. Some friends are in our lives for a lifetime, others for only a short, important, meaningful time.
Since those studious years in New Jersey, many different Katies have entered my life. College friends have remained steadfast. Ministry mentors have grown close. Mommy friends have become a new and unexpected joy.
Friendship can be the difference between flourishing and withering, between joy and loneliness, between a growing faith and a lost one.
Jesus had friends. Peter, James, and a disciple (most scholars think it’s John) who is routinely referred to in the Gospel of John only as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
If I’m honest, in seasons of busyness I sometimes neglect my friendships. They can feel like luxuries instead of necessities, like dessert instead of a main course.
Yet as Eugene Peterson, one of the writers I consider a personal pastor of mine, notes in his book Leap Over a Wall: “Friendship is a much underestimated aspect of spirituality. It’s every bit as significant as prayer and fasting. Like the sacramental use of water and bread and wine, friendship takes what’s common in human experience and turns it into something holy.”
It is every bit as significant as prayer and fasting. Did you catch that?
Last week one of Daryl’s dear friends and I arranged a surprise visit. Joel lives a long plane flight away, so Daryl never expected him to show up for our mini family vacation.
Within minutes of Joel’s arrival, I watched Daryl’s soul start to settle. In the midst of an anxious season for our family, Joel spoke peace by his very presence.
His presence brought God’s presence.
Take time for these sorts of friends. The ones who bring more of Jesus with them. Who remind you what is true. Who call you into the abundant life.
What friend made a difference in your life?
How can you take time for a friend this week? Today?