There is something really special about a friendship that spans decades, a friendship that has withstood the test of time, that has seen you through your worst moments and your very best. The friendships that distance can’t change, the friendships that you hold close to your heart even when you don’t see them on a regular basis, the friendships that when you finally see each other again you don’t hesitate, you just slide right back into the old rhythms, laugh at the old memories and familiar inside jokes.
I have moved a lot in my life, different cities and different countries and it means that the ‘historical’ friends aren’t close to me in physical ways. A few are, no doubt but there are too many who live too far away to keep up with regularly and it leaves me often feeling lonely.
Last night we had the joy of connecting with some historical friends from our early days as a married couple, and then as a young family. The memories we made will last us a lifetime. We’ve sat in hotel hallways eating cheese and drinking wine while our kids slept in our side by side rooms, we have travelled together, been through trying times together, prayed for each other, laughed together, cried together. Last night was like a balm for my lonely heart and when the zoom call ended I was left feeling known and loved. Something that seems rare in these times, something that is rare at the best of times.
I was left wondering late into the night about the concept of a historical friendship, or relationships; which led me to thoughts about my relationship with God. It is certainly one with a history, a history that far surpasses all my friendships and yet it’s the one I have taken for granted far more than I care to admit.
With history there is a deep knowing, with knowing there is a deep trust and faith, and in there is a foundation that can’t be shaken, not through distance or through time. In times like we are in now I can look back at my history with God and know that even if I can’t see him, even if I can’t hear him, he is here with me. When I am feeling lonely I only have to remember Him to know that I am not actually alone, when I am feeling tired and scared or worried or sad or frustrated or angry I can look back and remember all the times before today when I have walked through all those feelings before and been met with a God who knows all those feelings and all that love comes spilling out into the life I am living now. When the history is there you just look back when you are unsure but I also remember a time when there was no history, a time when I couldn’t look back at a mutual friendship and remember but there came a time in my life when I looked back and I still saw his hand working for my good. Times when I was saved from something worse, times when I was afraid or worried and God moved in active love to ease that fear and anxiety. When money was super tight and the church or someone from the church sent money at the exact right moment, the exact right amount.
One such time, I was living my life my way, living alone and struggling to make bills, I had been forced to take a number of weeks off work due to knee surgery and I wasn’t paid for the time off, rent was due, food was the rice that I had bought the month before in bulk on sale. I was heading to work and passing the mailboxes on my way to explain to the landlord that I would be late with my rent payment. I would normally check my mail on my way home from work because I wouldn’t have to carry it all day but that day for some reason I checked my mail before knocking on my landlords door. There was a letter from the government and I opened it as I walked down the hall to his door. When I open the letter a cheque fell out, a mistake on my taxes had been made and the cheque was a reimbursement for the amount they owed me. The money covered my rent and left me with two dollars to buy myself a coffee when I got to work. I remember sitting on the floor in the hall, my purse in a pile beside me and tears flowing from my cheeks. Similar things happened in other tight times, and one day many years later I saw it for what it was, God, lovingly pursuing me, taking care of me, wanting no credit for the acts of mercy or love, getting nothing back from me. The history went back further than I knew and when I hit patches in life where I am unsure of what to do I look back, I remember all those little moments. I remember the piggy bank a friend broke open for me when I couldn’t make my car insurance payment, and sitting with him while we counted out pennies and dimes only to find that it was exactly the amount I needed to cover the bill. I remember the times when I sat with Joshua in hospital, helpless to ease his pain, frustrated and angry, and a nurse would come by, offer to sit with him for a little while so that I could go downstairs and get some air, allowing me time to breathe, time to cry, time to pray or beg as the situation warranted, time that God used to offer me rest and to comfort Joshua on his own.
Sometimes we just need to stop the running on the hamster wheel long enough to look back at the moments where God was working, in order to trust in the knowledge that he is working still.
I’m doing that these days, looking to history to get through today.