Sunday, August 19, 2012

Crossing the Distance

Last Sunday I spent the day traveling to TN for a funeral.  Vicki's mother had died.  I didn't know her mom so well, but Vicki was one of my best friends in Junior High and High School.  Her mom had just been diagnosed with cancer.  The prognosis was not good, and doctors had only given her mom a year to live.  Before the month was over, her mother was gone.

It's hard to explain why I had to go.  It's harder still to explain why I need to write about it.  Vicki and I haven't seen each other in 16 years.  Our lives have taken us down different roads:  I live in Kentucky, and her home is in Los Vegas.  Yet she returned when her mom got sick.  And too soon she was saying goodbye to the most precious person in her life.  How do you bury your mom?  Especially when it comes way too soon, way too unexpected.  When I heard where and when the service would be, I just knew--I had to go.   Call it the draw of the Holy Spirit or that intuition that my friend needed me.  I couldn't not go.

Two hour drives are good for thinking.  And I spent the drive there recalling the depth of the friendship I felt, the whole reason behind this magnet pulling me away from my domestic life of chasing boys and shopping for groceries and cooking dinner and giving baths and preparing for another busy week.

When I was in seventh grade we moved to Small Town, Tennessee.  Such a rural place.  Most everyone had been there since before birth.  Even after graduating from High School there, I always felt like an outsider looking in.  That first year was tough.  At the little school I attended I met Vicki.  Both of us rode the bus together.  She and I became fast friends.  But the thing that cemented our friendship could have been the thing that shattered it.  I remember that everyone had to participate in music class, but both of us loved to sing.  As it happened there was a small solo we both wanted.   One morning as we sat on the bleachers waiting to be dismissed to our homerooms several of us were joking and cutting up and talking about music.  I joined in by teasing that I thought I would get the part over her, that I thought I sang better.  What was I thinking, twelve year old me?  Why would I say something like that?  Who says stuff like that?  Well, what I remember thinking was this is how people joke around with each other.  But the group listening didn't take it that way.  They considered me a braggart and decided that someone who brags so much about themselves and puts others down is not someone they wanted to associate with.  And they didn't.  Ever.  For months on end.

But Vicki did.

She kept being my friend.  In fact she became my best friend at that school.  We rode the bus together.  We ate lunch together.  We spent recess together.  We spent our summer together.  We became inseparable.  And what I remember most is that she forgave me, and made that unbearable season of my life, bearable.

Big deal, right?

But it was a big deal.  I already had all kinds of abandonment issues crawling all over me.  All kinds of heartache weaving its way all through my sense of self.  There wasn't a moment my heart didn't hurt.  And in all that pain here was a friend who forgave me and loved me and accepted me just the way I came.

Two hours on the road from my Old Kentucky Home to an out of the way place in Tennessee, I am remembering all this.  "Oh God, show me why I am here, show me why I am making this journey."

When I arrived, it was just in time.  I walked up the front steps, in through the door.  The service was moments from starting, but someone says, Vicki is in there.  And in I went and here she came to greet me, arms open wide, just like old times.  She draws me to her and seats me beside her and we hold hands and I gently rub her shoulder and back during this oh so hard time.  For sixteen years she had been waiting and saving a seat.  I am awestruck.

After the service we were able to draw close for a bit and share our hearts.  In sixteen years so much of her was still the same:  her voice, her smile, her eyes, the warmth radiating in all of them.  I just felt enveloped in that same love that had held me together so long ago, welcoming me into a friendship that wouldn't let go.

Two hour drives are good for thinking.  As I made my way back home, I replayed the memories of years gone by.   It is hard going back to those days, remembering times I've spent so much effort forgetting.  The truth is, I never felt like I belonged somewhere until I went to college.  And I never truly felt at home until I got involved in campus ministry my sophomore year.  That's the year the whole trajectory of my life changed.  I found my calling.  I met my husband.  I discovered my own heart, and for the first time loved it.  I haven't wanted to revisit those before times that felt so awkward, and painful, and lonely.  When I left my hometown at graduation, I truly left. 

But going back last week was redemptive.  It showed me that even in those years of  heartache, God had provided Light, and Love, and Hope.  And it was enough to help me get through to the other side.  And couldn't I give of myself to someone so dear so that she could make it to her other side?  Couldn't I let the Love of Jesus be present for her through me, just like she had done on my behalf so many years ago?  Don't we all just need that Love that crosses the distance to get us to the other side of hurt and heartache so we can touch Hope?

I've pondered that--that Love that crosses the distance.  Jesus crossed the distance in my life and redeemed every part of it that made me ashamed to be me.  He showed me that I am a person worth loving and holding and helping.  He showed me that He could do things in me and through me and for me that I could not even imagine!  And I am staring down this road of who I am amazed at what He has done with such a girl as I am.  Oh when He found me, oh what a mess He found.  But that Jesus is so fond of messes.  And I love Him.  And I am so thankful for all He has done to bring me to this time and place.  And I am oh so grateful for the call to go and be with a friend who needed a hand to hold while she helped her mother make the journey Home.


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