At the gate, flying to Portland today, to speak at the Q conference (oh, if He leads, if you’d lend this girl holding on to Jesus’ hand a few prayers, I’d be mighty grateful!) … and I’m sitting here remembering these words, and giving thanks for friends like you: my beautiful mama loving me deep & loving on our kids while I quietly share His message of eucharisteo, for the radiant women at the other end of this flight — and for the gift of time with one of the women in this post, a true heart friend in Him who simply, powerfully lives the Gospel of Jesus Christ…
When Lissa Turscott slid down her bus window and whipped that baseball hard, I felt the thud in my back and the smash of my heart.
I hunched over to catch the pieces all shattering.
I heard her friends all slapping her on the back in congratulations as the bus moaned away.
Some bruises break the vessels skin deep and others just break souls and Lissa and Judith and Alexa and all the girls with the teased bangs, they were the ones sashaying to the latest Madonna songs.
I was the mocked girl wearing polyester pants from the Sally Ann.
I’ve been rejected and I’ve skirted wide circles around women and maybe you know something about wide berths and big circles?
The skittish circles you make at church teas around the buffet table looking for another cracker and hoping no one makes eye contact?
The way you carry a book to the kids’ swimming lessons like a piece of armour so no one gets close enough to trample on your still bruised heart?
The imaginary and very real boundaries you draw around your life like a barbed wire fence?
And when you’ve been hurt, you’re making sure that won’t be happening any time soon and you keep this wary distance from anywhere where you’d have to show the bare underbelly of your tender heart.
But no one tells you that the shields you carry to keep you safe, become the the steel cages that keep you alone.
And then sometimes along comes someone who lays a hand on your shield, who sticks her hand through the bars of your protective cage… and quietly waits. And for you.
She’s a woman like Tonia who every day sends me lines of her thoughts. I get brave and send back mine. For six years, we write letters and exchange bits of our lives. I begin to trust the places with no shields. And I begin to see the beauty of women and the way their words have movement and action and meaning and you can always trust what moves, what reaches out, trust the words that migrate down to the muscle and touches skin.
She’s a woman like Marlene who shows up unexpected in the middle of some crazy morning with a bouquet of yellow roses in hand and she says she believes in me and God and whatever is to come and she prays before she leaves. I dry her roses and this is what I will preserve, a friendship that gives like this because there’s no currency in the world that can buy you this and this is the only treasure worth storing up, love.
She’s a woman like Megan and I open a note from her and I laugh wonder when I find this picture of her holding a square of cardboard scrawled with the words, “Run the Race, friend!” and another picture too, her holding the back side of the cardboard and the words, “You can do it!”
And we can. We can do it.
We can believe that God alone is our security and love is always worth the risk and there is no better investment than reaching out to someone and locking arms and unlocking your heart.
No better investment than finding the time for friendship and the courage to be real and the humility to say we’re sorry.
And distrust can cost us the very richest life of all and the price for being safe can be too expensive and friendship is the only thing that will show up at our funerals.
We can do life together and we can laugh about babies who pee on Sunday skirts and boys who lose piano books and daughters who try on seven outfits before deciding on anything and their bedroom floor is proof of it, and we can drive each other to doctor appointments and bring soup when the flu season hits and we can see something on a shelf that whispered the other’s name and we can wrap it up and give it on any day at all for no reason at all but to celebrate a kindred sister.
And we can hold each other’s fragility and we can forgive each other when we crack an artery, and our hearts will break, and we can pray and grant grace and begin again because we’ve tasted mercy and His name is Jesus.
I am learning to reach out my hand.
And long after Lissa Turscott, on one fine spring day in the summer of my life, I meet a woman, a woman who loves women, a woman who helped build a certain cyber beach house I know, and she drives me up and down and around the winding backroads of Arkansas.
I ramble all awkward and thick tongued in her passenger seat and I wish for the luxury of a wall somewhere just to be a flower.
We share a no-fat sticky bun together on a Monday morning with a glass of orange juice and we don’t believe for a New York minute that that sticky sweet won’t find our hips. We laugh. I meet her friends. They are wondrous. My mouth feels dry. She drives me to the airport.
And when I am back home on the farm, she writes me a letter, and I keep it.
“You have been hurt by women. I could see the pain in your eyes… And I’ve never done this before but… I feel prompted to make you a promise of friendship.”
“I promise I will never speak an unkind word to or about you. I will never be jealous of you. I will never compete with you. I will never abandon or betray you. I will love you. I will pray for you. I will do all I can to help you go far and wide in the Kingdom.
I will accept you as you are, always. I will be loyal to you. Before our loving God of grace, you have my words and my heart in friendship for this life and forever with Him.”
And our God is a love body and He hates amputations and He sutures our wounds together with the silver threads of community. And I have found healing in this community of women. Trust asks us to live (in) Courage.
In this place, we kneel down beside you. In this place, we reach out our hands. In this place, can you hear us whisper?
“You have been hurt. We can see the pain in your eyes —- We offer you a promise of friendship.”
In the places of sisters and sinners and souls made saints, we make safe circles around women and together we watch each other’s backs and together we bend down when one hunches over in pain.
And together we pick up the shards of the hearts all shattered, the Jesus-women making this healing mosaic of grace…
At (in)Courage, by Holley Gerth: Will you pledge the Commitment of Words to one of your friends? To help heal her hurting heart? You couldn’t give her a better gift…