Friday, February 25, 2011

A Journey Towards Friendship

"How many countries have you been to?" And so began our conversation around the Olson's dinner table...a conversation that continued almost seamlessly through the next 36 hours.

We have just returned home from Germany, where we spent two wonderful nights at the home of our friends. The Olsons are from Spokane, but they have lived in Germany for the past 3 1/2 years. None of us could remember the last time we had actually seen each other, yet all of us...the children and the adults, picked up as if we had seen each other just last week.

Actually, that is not exactly true. The husbands and children picked up as if they had seen each other just last week. For Sharon and me it was a new beginning. A much needed new beginning. A wonderful, grace-filled, redemptive new beginning.

You see, Sharon and I had many mutual friends in Spokane, which meant that we crossed paths fairly often. Our children are similar ages, our husbands enjoy each another, and we were in a book club together. But in spite of numerous opportunities, we never really forged a friendship of our own.

I wish I could say that it was just "one of those things." It would be easy to let you assume that we were happy to be acquaintances and that we really didn't have enough in common to seek out a genuine relationship with each other. But that would be a lie. In fact, we are very much alike. Sharon is a friend who shares her life lovingly, a mother who parents with passion, a wife who is fierce in her devotion to her husband. She loves adventure, she speaks passionately, she reads voraciously, she laughs easily.

Why, with so much fertile ground, did friendship fail to bloom? Oh how I hate to name the weeds that choked our early attempts at relationship. Envy. Distrust. Misunderstanding. Pride. Ugly sins I harbored in my heart kept me from enjoying a dear, dear sister in Christ. What silliness it all seems now.

I am not sure how it happened. Perhaps I matured a little. We had the blessing of time and space. Certainly God has been at work. He has changed me, He continues to change me, and I will be forever grateful. And because of His work in my heart, I am being freed from the bondages of envy, distrust, and pride. How grateful I am for those people who keep their hearts open to me, even through years of disappointment. How pleased I am that my God can redeem everything.

Sharon blessed me this week. She blessed me with warm hospitality, with generous gifts, and with an open heart. After years of false starts and failed attempts, the bud of true friendship has finally broken through the soil. How like God to not give up on us. For heaven's sake, He pursued us across the globe. He brought us both to Europe, gave us a second chance, and alas, love has won out.

The hours we spent in the Olson's home were holy moments. They were honest and real and life-giving moments. They shared everything they have with us--even their own friends. And I know it was just the beginning.

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