Hers was the first familiar face I saw in the sea of unknown that was the airport atrium. Standing back on the soil of my “home” for the first time in a year, I felt uprooted. A week before, my friend only existed as a voice over the phone while I ached for community I hadn’t been able to build yet in my new life in South Asia. America felt like another reality altogether as change pulled me further away.
But a family crisis had yanked me up by my transplanted roots, and there I stood again. Home yet not home. My husband and children stayed behind 8,500 miles away, and my heart was torn between two continents.
I expected to feel out of place after the prolonged absence and adjustment to a new normal. Yet in the smiling face of the friend who had known the depths of my wandering heart for twenty-three years, I felt like no time had passed at all. We became friends over bus rides to band competitions and passing notes in biology class. We saw each other through crushes and crushed hearts, marriage and divorce, chronic illness, and now two international moves. We had shared a house and shared over half our lives.
I had imagined our connection dissolving with time and distance as I complained that I had no friends in my new home. I focused on what I didn’t have and forgot what I did have because it lingered out of sight. Yet there she was with a caramel macchiato she knew to be my favorite in hand. She was a visual reminder that friendship is not erased by time apart and not changed by miles traveled.
When I walked into the ICU waiting room where my whole family was gathered, she quietly melted into the background. She let me cry with my sister, whose husband had just undergone a second emergency surgery for the aneurism that had prompted my unplanned trip around the world. I felt ashamed at my own lack of willingness to be inconvenienced for others when her husband didn’t complain that it was 2am before we pulled into my parents’ driveway.
I was reminded of so much more than the strength of a childhood friendship in those days. Every time she showed up over those two weeks, I was surprised when I shouldn’t have been. Where else but in the everyday needs of life should we expect Christ to show up? When she bounced my sister’s four children on her knees, battled the rain to meet me for breakfast, and brought groceries so I could shuttle the kids to daycare, I remembered the way the early church shared everything they had in common.
When she cooked for two days so we could have a makeshift early Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital before I left, I knew that this was really a Eucharist meal. What better way to remember Jesus than in caring for others? What better way to bring His body into our midst than feasting together in desperate times, remembering His presence in even the darkest places?
When she dropped me back off at the airport, there was a different feeling to this goodbye than others we’d shared before. We said somehow it felt like we’d see each other the next day instead of months later. I think it was because we remembered how truly intertwined the lives of those who live out the call to be the Body of Christ are. Nothing can separate us from the love of God or from one another. We belong to each other.
“See you tomorrow,” we said as we smiled to keep back the tears. I tucked my boarding pass away in my backpack, next to the new assurance that I’d never been without community. I carried with me the truth that we are grafted into a global and eternal family. No matter where we go, we’ll always find ourselves simultaneously home and not yet home. But we can always know we’ll never walk alone.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God or from one another. We belong to each other. - @NicoleTWalters: Click To Tweet