I’m still not over this past weekend.
It was 85 degrees in Nashville. But that wasn’t what I can’t stop thinking about. I keep picturing a chapel full of women. They’re wearing skinny jeans or bootcut or dresses or skirts but they’re all there because deep in their bones we have this same ache in common. We ache for community. For friendship. We ache in those places we don’t talk about, in those conversations that only happen in our own heads. The ones where we replay the throwaway sentences that have cut deep; the misunderstandings we can’t untangle, the confusion that refuses to get cleared up.
I stood in a chapel surrounded by women brave enough to take the conversations they were having in their heads and start to say them out loud, in real life.
It’s liberating you know.
It’s so wildly freeing to know that you’re not crazy to still find tears leaking down your cheeks when you remember that friendship that walked out of your life. Or the one that imploded. Or the one that hurt you and never said sorry.
We stood in our sneakers or boots or flip flops and we let the words of other women willing to admit how losing a friend can feel like a death — we let those words be our light guiding us out of the dark.
And then we raised our hands in worship and let the great Healer have our pain and of course we cried and we hugged and some of us left with a lighter load than when we arrived.
It’s a sacred space, being able to serve other women.
And after we walked out of that chapel and into the minivan for the short ride back to the hotel, four friends rode up the elevator and into a hotel room together. I was so tired. I needed out of my skinny jeans and into something comfortable, something that felt like home. I needed heels off and sneakers on. I needed chapstick and a hairbrush and mostly I needed to close my eyes and find a way to process everything from the day.
Sometimes friendship is a deep conversation. Sometimes it’s a shared ugly cry. But sometimes, friendship is the gift of not being afraid of silence. With only fifteen minutes before we needed to regroup, that group of women collectively laid down on the beds and tucked ourselves between soft comforters and a comforting layer of safe silence.
As I lay with my back pressed up against the rise and fall of a friend’s breathing I could feel with each inhale and exhale the God who breathed life into us lay Himself down between us. How when we are safe we don’t need to fill the spaces with small talk. We can simply give and receive the gift of shared presence. Our bodies tucked into beds for brief moments of finding rest between our friends and the pillows.
It was the moment from the weekend that sits like a cup of hot chocolate right there, warming the spot beneath my rib cage. This ability to let your guard down in a room full of women. To warm yourself in their silence. To believe you are known without saying a word. It is a very rare thing. A precious thing that if you think about it too much or too long, might find it’s dissolved right when you try to put your finger on it.
In seven years of serving the women here at (in)courage, I’ve been the recipient of too many hurt stories to ever take safe friendship for granted. I know it for the treasure it is.
So I lay back to back with Holley and with each breath, each rise and each fall of our bodies, I could hear the heartbeat of a long friendship. A friendship that lives comfortably now in the silent spaces because it’s walked through all the spaces in between. The hard and the sad and the heartbreaking. But always, always with the determined commitment to love, to love, to love.
This word sister of mine.
I am more because of her. More of a writer. More of a Jesus follower. More of a listener. More of a believer. More of a fighter.
And I am less because of her. Less afraid. Less worried. Less trapped in the cycles of comparison.
So I breathe in and out and I watch the late afternoon sunshine spilling through the soft, white, cotton curtains and in two minutes we will all go downstairs for what comes next. But I know, I know with each breath, that this sister will always have my back. And I will always have hers. And I smile at the small crack in the ceiling tiles and I put this gift into my pocket.
Instead of the slights and criticisms that I’ve been so quick to collect over the years, like pebbles, filling up my pockets and sometimes spilling out my mouth. No, today I put this moment, this gift of the safety of silence, the comfort of friendship. I put it into my pocket like a seashell. So that later, I can take it out again and hold it up to my ear where I can still hear the echo of what it sounds like to breathe in companionship with your friends. The breath of the beloved, the secure, the seen.
I hold it up to my ear so I can remember what it sounds like. So that I can know what it sounds like when it comes time to pass it on.