I entered the church, turned and found my old friend standing just a few feet from me. Until she smiled, I didn’t recognize her. But only one person smiles like that.
We hugged, opened our mouths, and started in, just like old times in another church foyer. Back then, we almost wore the carpet thin after worship, standing there yakking. We discussed rebellious kids, our dissatisfaction with our prayer lives, the upcoming women’s retreat, new dessert recipes...
Decades ago, when we first met, she came wary to worship. Hurt. Prepared for rejection. Not expecting the friends she found. We shared committees, planned events, went on retreats together; chatted every mile. Together with our husbands, we spent time at each others’ homes, enjoying an easy companionship. Bright. Helpful. Solid.
But life is gritty sometimes. Like a sandstorm, petty small stuff gusts in, swirls over and blows us away from the people we care about. And suddenly you wake up and realize a friend has gone missing.
I can’t recall what it was exactly, but hurts and disappointment clouded over our comradeship. The sun of that friendship got lost for years. No final words, no real explanations. Just a far quieter phone. An empty pew. And sometimes, tears on the pillow.
Years later, crises visited both our homes. One day, as we drove near her home, I picked up my cell phone, almost without thinking. Punched in her number.
“We’re just drivin’ by,” I said, all in a rush. “Wondered if….”
“Please come,” she said.
Around the kitchen table, the conversation felt fragile and cautious. We dodged the sensitive things. Our husbands, our partners in hard times, talked between themselves. Slow words, polite but cool. Mostly, we listened.
But when we left, something had changed. “D’ya think…” I asked myself. “Don’t do that,” I answered myself. “You think too much. Follow God one step at a time.”
We met “accidentally,” after that. God’s doings, I’m sure. Like that day in a church neither of us attended. In restaurants, at stores. Gradually, the ice thawed. Now when I see my friend – even when I don’t recognize her immediately, as happened a few weeks ago, we talk as naturally as we ever did. Laugh, too.
Thank God for hard times. Difficulty, disaster and disease, if we’re paying attention, bring clarity. Make us see the important things we can’t otherwise — like our own pettiness, and what we’ve sacrificed to hang onto it.
The specific hurt that once drove a wedge between us is long forgotten. In light of the really big stuff we’ve both faced since, it’s not even worth discussing. Somehow it feels more important to simply grab the present opportunity. To embrace the moments and the people God has allowed, for as long as he allows them.
Anytime is a good time to begin releasing old grudges (or fresh ones), but the start of a new year seems especially appropriate. After all, we’ve just celebrated the coming of the Christ who came to bring lasting inner peace.
Let it go, people – including me. Follow peace, in Jesus’ name, and may his peace saturate your 2019.