Tentatively emerging from an emotional and spiritual dry spell, the kind that tests both faith and friendships, I pay particular attention to Christian comedian Anita Renfroe’s story on the radio on this Sunday morning drive to church. Anita’s live performances have a way of breaking down barriers. Laughter does that. She describes a moment in each show when no arms remain crossed and the audience has become loose and relaxed — disarmed.
At the meet and greets that follow her shows, Anita hears a similar story, again and again: I didn’t want to come here tonight, but my sister/best friend/husband made me. Maybe a spouse recently passed away. Or a child. Maybe a battle with disease or depression has left wounds that gape too wide to imagine they can ever be filled. Against their will they come — to make someone else happy — and sit in their so-numb-it’s-become-comfortable shell and listen until a tiny crack appears. And then it happens: they laugh. Probably guiltily at first — you can be so entrenched in sorrow that it feels disloyal to shake it loose — but then they allow their spirit to infuse with joy and laugh deep and long. It’s in that moment that they know: I will make it. I will be okay.
After church I sit down to lunch with two women who’ve been my friends for over twenty years. I believed that friendships like that could weather any storm, but recent months cast long shadows and honestly, I just want to walk in the sunshine again. Conversation begins gingerly — we’ve learned to tiptoe, to avoid the cracks — until we find that place only accessible through years of shared experience and the deepest of friendships. It feels like home.
We talk of life goals out of our reach and body changes out of our control and our conversation gets a little naughty, in the oh-so-mild version of the word that might be expected of forty- and fifty-something ladies sitting at a table in the church fellowship hall. We grin wide and our laughter rings so loud, so true, it attracts attention. People smile and nod at us because they know what I’ve only just realized. We’re going to make it. We’re going to be okay.
God used this season while I worked on a book about friendship to show me how important it is in my life and how hard I will fight to keep it alive. I’ve disagreed with friends on deep issues, and even when no one switched sides, we held fast to each other and proved our relationships weren’t superficial. I’ve leaned on mostly online but occasionally real-life friends. Don’t let anyone tell you that a friendship that begins online must lack a foundation.
Treasure friendship in whatever form it takes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt from my new book The Gift of Friendship, a collection over fifty true stories from some of today’s best writers. With its beautiful photographs and poignant prose, this collection is a great gift for a dear friend and the perfect pick-me-up any time you need a boost. Contributors include Crystal Paine, Liz Curtis Higgs, Tsh Oxenreider, Myquillyn Smith, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Lisa-Jo Baker, Jessica Turner, Lysa TerKeurst, Bonnie Gray, Holley Gerth, Renee Swope, and many more.
Find the full list of contributors and other pinnable quotes on my book page.
Meet me in Atlanta!
If you’re in Atlanta, join me this Friday, February 19 for my book launch party at The Warehouse in Cumming, GA, or on Saturday, February 20 at the Barnes & Noble at the Collection at Forsyth in Cumming for a book signing.