When Friendship Blooms
A deeper section of this river we call life hurtled past me this week. Never one to shy from change, Heraclitus’ philosophy that we cannot “step in the same river twice” usually energizes and excites the adventurer in me. Not so the fast flowing current that bore away my friend, one-time neighbor, and her family.
It was over two years ago that a new family moved into the house across the street from where we were living. I’d already had good vibes with that house. Once, during my pregnancy with Judah, Joshua had locked me outside while I was gardening and then driven off on an errand, unaware I had neither phone nor keys on my person. Previous occupants of the house across the street had allowed me use of their bathroom, and their phone to call my ever-vigilant spouse home. When those neighbors moved I had hopes for another friendly face to help with similar emergencies. Never did I suspect the gain would be a friend more like a sister, Crystal.
They moved into our lives during another season of change. Our understanding of scripture, theology, and church had progressed to a point where we left the, wonderful and Gospel-centered, church we had been serving in to find a Presbyterian church. I felt adrift, this daughter of a Southern Baptist minister visiting non-Baptist churches. My first conversation with Crystal involved the glaring basics – her two tow-headed children nearly identical in age to my brown-eyed progeny. The second centered around being Presbyterian - they wondered if we could recommend a church. As unexpected as seeing a two-headed monster, here was a living, breathing Presbyterian family occupying the house across the street. Although we ended up attending separate communities of worship, Crystal was my first Presbyterian friend, the daughter of a Presbyterian pastor no less!
What began was a friendship whose possibility I thought nonexistent when we moved into suburbia. Our door opened on unplanned walks and playdates. Our front yards became extensions of one another, and our children learned early how to cross the street safely. We traded date-night “sit-ins” where after bedtimes one couple would split up to stay at both houses and the other couple would go out. We talked theology, homeschooling, discipline woes, organizing plans and meal prep. I’ve seen her house, and she’s seen mine, both sparkling clean and in the throes of children’s “play”, last week’s dishes, and this week’s laundry piles. In short, we lived life together, and I greatly benefited.
Then the day came when the house we purchased sans kids was no longer a good fit. We moved a little closer into town and I mourned my home. My friendship with Crystal, however, grew. What had been a beautiful wild rose became a glorious, cultivated one. We became intentional about time together, and in the repetition regained that restful hospitality of an ever open door. Then came the news that they would be moving halfway across the country. Last week we had the privilege of hosting them on their final day in our city. We played, ate lunch, put all the kids down to nap, and then when the time came we waved goodbye from the front porch. Walking back into our home, a bouquet of tulips and lilies lending a glorious riot of color to my kitchen caught my eye. A parting gift from this wonderful friend, the bouquet stood as a quiet testimony to the beauty brought to me, and to my family, by this friendship.
Henri Nowen writes about the freedom a true friendship creates: that acceptance and love of a deep friendship provides security against potential rejection in new relationships. Having a good friend makes a good friend. Never before has this principle been so true in my life than it is with Crystal’s friendship. She has impacted who I am as a neighbor, a friend, a mother, a wife, and a church-goer – making me better in every regard. The person I am today owes a great debt to Crystal, a debt that will grow as her influence continues to shape and mold me. Because Crystal is an amazing friend to me, I have an opportunity to be an amazing friend to (her, hopefully! and) others. My life’s river will continue to ebb and flow, change being the only constant. In the midst of perpetual transformation a mental snapshot exists of two cozy, red-brick suburban homes situated on either sides of the road – and it is beautiful. There a friendship was forged with deep rooted seeds, resulting in fruit to bless my family many years to come. And that bless me.