It was after Mare Griebe* said she was done with me, that I knew.
Mare, she had taken me to my first youth Bible study.
She delivered the thick folded notes from the first boy who ever asked me out.
And I had flown half across the country to be her maid of honor, then again, ten years later to hold her first baby. We talked lactation and I helped with latch and I thought we’d never fall apart.
We were in grade 9 when she had played me my first Keith Greene song: “So you wanna go back to Egypt.” It was the eighties. We had teased bangs and thick glasses and co-joined lives.
Sometimes you can wanna go back — and there ain’t no going back.
She had called last winter. Left a message on the answering machine. I didn’t get around to calling her back. I folded laundry, made pots of soup, dozens of loaves of bread. I had read history lessons, taken out the garbage, paid bills, checked math homework. I had found a pair of red shoes, picked up knitting and a camera and a lot of lego. Planted a garden, attended meetings, returned emails.
But I didn’t return her call.
Your days never fail to betray your priorities.
Late spring, the wheat field about in head, I sent Mare a note. A letter slipped in with a package of books, wrapped with a string of raffia. I tried to reach out. I had drawn a heart in the card, there by my name. I tried to explain. Sometimes your excuses accuse you.
It was as the wheat turned gold that Mare wrote back.
Just a digital message, a few pixels long:
Your life is busy. I’m good.
God bless. Have a nice life.
Was she saying what I thought she was saying?
I had read the lines over again, hardly breathing, pixels crumbling away, all that history between us.
I wrote to ask? I wrote all summer. Every week, just a few lines of love.
Just because someone decides to move out of your circles, doesn’t mean that they move out of the circle of your love.
I sent another card. Another package.
Mare never wrote another note.
I wish I could go back. Wish I could return a phone call. Wished I’d stayed up a bit longer, let something else slide. Wish I had made a friend know she’s a priority. What can ever be more of a priority than a person?
Friendship is the only thing that will show up at our funerals.
I had failed Mare. You can cut ties, but you can’t cut time’s ties. Time and story bind us in ways that can’t ever be severed and this is the call — to honor the ties that bind. Relationship is the currency of all reality and our God is a love body and He hates amputations and He sutures our wounds together with the silver threads of community.
It was after Mare Greibe never wrote another word that I knew:
It doesn’t matter what you get done if you’ve undone a heart — and there are no real accomplishments apart from relationship. I pray that someday I learn not in synapses but in marrow and in bones.
Somtimes you just wanna go back…
I had walked the fields as the wheat came off in late summer. Walked across the fields before the combines, before the harvest, the wind blowing, the wheat waving goodbye.
I’d stood on the fence line. I’d stood at the edge of that field.
Jonathan and David, they’d met in the fields where the heads of grain leaned into one another. Leaned into one another and listened and wind blew.
Jonathan — to be a Jonathan for just one woman?
Friendships never just happen — they are forged.
And it’s either the fire of the forging or the searing of the severing.
At a fence post, I had cupped my hand to hold a few kernels of wheat.
Maybe somehow He could do it in me? I could pray to be a Jonathan —
To be a friend that curves her heart into this safe cup for all words and feelings to spill, the good and the grit, the grain and the chaff all mixed.
Then in faithful silence to always sifts for the good —
and with a whispering prayer —
blow all the grit that chafes away with a breath of grace.
*name changed:: :: :: :: ::
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4 Ways to be a Better Friend
1. People are the Priority:
What’s more of a priority than a person?
2. Live Maskless:
Bare your faults and the foibles and messy laundry room. The only way to see into another soul — is to be transparent yourself.
3. Speak Life:
Share freely of your feelings because this may just free us — of the prisons of protection we’ve bound ourselves in.
Only speak words that make souls stronger — and speak ill of no one and well of everyone.
4. Get together:
Put on the kettle. Set an extra plate at the table. Call her and ask her if she wants to go for walk. Write a letter. Pick up the phone.