I walked through my entire childhood with my best friend. We spent hours together every day as I read stories, played, and went to school. We spent every Sunday morning together in Sunday school. I don’t even know how many hours of Vacation Bible School we spent together. As we grew, I knew my best friend so well. We were so comfortable together. Even into high school and college, we spent as much time together as I could manage with my schedule. It felt comforting to know someone so well. I felt connected because we were so much alike.
Young adulthood came, though, and nothing seemed the same. I heard new rumors about my friend that I kept denying because they just couldn’t be true.
“I met your friend at the dance last night. I’m so glad we met.”
“That couldn’t be my friend,” I exclaimed. “You must be wrong. My friend would never be at a dance, much less on a Wednesday night. That’s mid-week Bible study where you can come to if you want to.”
“I met your friend at Pride. You should have come as well.”
““That couldn’t be my friend,” I exclaimed. “You must be wrong. My friend would never be at a Pride event. I’m sure you’re a nice person, but your choices are so wrong. I’ll pray for, and I’ll tell my friend to help you as well.”
“I met your friend at the Black Lives Matter march.”
“That couldn’t be my friend,” I exclaimed. “You must be wrong. My friend would never be at a march. The people marching are the ones causing trouble instead of seeking peace. They should all be arrested.”
I was angry and hurt by now. So many people were saying things about my friend that couldn’t be true. I knew my friend. I knew every aspect of their personality. I knew who and what they loved. I knew their house. I knew their heart. I distanced myself from these confused people and went to find my friend. I stepped into church and felt comfortable there. I knew my friend would be here. And they were. But instead of putting my heart at ease, they just kept saying, “You really need to get to know me better.”
“No, stop. I know you. I know YOU!” I didn’t want anything about our relationship to change. I had read their diaries and letters and report cards and poems. I knew them. I resented my friend suggesting that I didn’t after all of these years. I would not let this relationship change. I hung on to the memories I had, and I stayed in that building with a determination that felt crucial to my very existence.
Years later, I was still in that building with my own child who brought in someone new. I pulled my child aside saying I wasn’t sure this building was the right place for their new friend. “But they know your friend,” my child answered.
Suddenly my heart warmed as I saw the young friendship of my child and this child starting to grow. I remembered my youth and the feeling of being loved and being able to love. “Where did you meet my friend?” I asked.
“Outside behind the community center. Your friend helps serve soup to all of us homeless families every Saturday.”
I walked outside and looked around. I saw the familiar artwork that bore the fingerprints of my friend. I saw love in people’s eyes. I saw my community working together to bring love, hope, and justice to so many people I had never even met. My friend was taking part in all of this. I went back into the building and picked up my Bible. The light flooded in the nearby window and illuminated the words of Jesus. Love…weep…leave the ninety-nine to find the one…blessed are the peacemakers…blessed are those who mourn…the Samaritan who gave so much…the bent-over woman…the forgiveness…the women…the leper.
I had never really known my friend, I realized. I had known me and fit my friend into my shadow. “Come dance with me,” I heard my friend call.
“I’m coming, Jesus. Let’s go see these people you know. I want to truly get to know you and the ones you love.”
“I love you. Let’s go. You’re going to love what I have to show you. Put on your dancing shoes and be prepared to hug.” And I walked out of that building holding on to love and hope.