A girl called Tina
There are many ways my life has been shaped and changed by loss. One of the most
tangible is my constant awareness that things around me can change at any moment. Because one time they did and I’ll never be the same. Hence my passion for writing letters (on real paper with a pen) to people to tell them how special they are to me and for doing crazy things like using my birthday money to take my friends out for dinner just because I want nothing more than time with their precious faces and my tendency to remember mundane little details about people because I don’t want to forget. It could also explain why I like to step back sometimes and marvel at the big picture.
The beginning of the (very) big picture of my friendship with Tina began when we were 16. She blew onto the youth group scene out of no where and seemed to have priorities that matched mine in many ways. Boys and Jesus and adventure. We were fast friends. Her blond haired, blue eyed sparkle brought with it intoxicating energy. I briefly entertained the notion that there really wasn’t room for the both of us in the group but quickly decided there must be.
We shared stories and laughter and trouble and boys (sometimes at the same time, that never went well). We woke early before heading to our high schools to ‘pray’ together. Oh what I wouldn’t give to hear one of those early morning talks! I’m not sure but its likely there was more talk than prayer, maybe occasional gossip but two hearts who wanted so badly to follow Jesus in a way that meant something.
We raised some hell while we were trying to find our way to heaven on church retreats and camp-outs….spied on boys at night in the dark, listened to them outside their showers at the campground and did our best to rock climb, beach hike and backpack for days without a complaint. We may or may not have attempted to join the local Search and Rescue team. In the middle of our training weekend in the pouring cold Seattle rain, I may have feigned a terrible knee injury just so we could call it quits without looking like idiots.
After high school we went different paths and then promptly got engaged and married the same year AND started into our very young married lives in ministry at the church we’d attended for years together. When she and her new husband were lacking proper housing we “graciously” opened our tiny condo to them for “as long as they wanted to stay”.
Good heavens, I still shudder when I think of what a miserable hostess I was for those weeks, maybe months, I’ve blocked the whole season out of my memory – honest. I made a fuss about EXACTLY what corner shelf she could put her dishes on. I’m pretty sure I made fusses about just about everything. It is amazing to me she ever talked to me again after they moved out.
Ministry life seasoned us both, in different ways but we both shouldered a generous share of disappointment and disillusionment. Motherhood seasoned us even more. I don’t know what I expected her to be like as a mom but I do know something, the sort of mom she turned out to be was more amazing and more beautiful than I’d imagined. The privilege of watching someone go through not one but many metamorphic changes is, I believe, one of the great things of life.
Raising babies and serving God in the ministries we’d given our all to brought deeper connections and much more genuine, grown up relationship. We knew each others’ garbage and still stuck around. We were so very different but so very drawn to one another in friendship.
Then in one day, everything we’d known for the past ten years came to a screeching halt. We came to an impasse. There were words and there was silence and there was the deepest kind of heartache.
It would be a true impossibility to explain the nuances of it all or to do any justice to how broken both of our hearts were. Never in my life before or since have I felt exactly like that. And I didn’t talk with her then or for the almost two years after, but I think she probably felt something similar. We walked opposite directions but in the same circles, to say it was awkward is an understatement.
I yelled (quite literally) at God. I told Him I could not see how His gracious hand who had never been anything but faithful to me could allow such a thing. And I told Him that He would never, could never heal this wound or restore that relationship – no matter how hard He might try.
This might be getting long and its okay if no one is still reading…I have to tell the rest because, well, it’s the best part.
Tina became more “Tina” and I became more “me “and I hope we both became more Jesus. We lived and loved and learned how to walk out our unique and distinct calling.
Months, then years went by. Slowly, in whisper quiet ways that only God is great at, pieces of the wall we’d both helped build were taken down. Some didn’t hurt and some hurt a lot. There was grace, beautiful and broken, given on both sides. There were wise and tender husbands who had wiped so many tears whose ears had listened so faithfully to our bleeding hearts.
I don’t know why it surprised me so. But it did. He did just what I said He could not and in the most incredible way. And I think He delighted in every moment of it.
Now, when we’ve just come into the lovely new space of friendship again, she is leaving. Not just any leaving but moving-to-Chile-leaving. Which is why I did what I do and spent a great amount of time over the past couple weeks thinking about all our shared history and memories and being insanely grateful that God fixed what was broken before thousands of miles stood between us.
At that last possible moment to say goodbye yesterday before she got on a plane headed south, I whispered these words as we hugged one last time:
I’m so glad this hurts this much. It would have been so sad if it didn’t.”
That is one of the most mystifying and complicated aspects of love. Real, genuine, sacrificial kind of love opens up the heart to unspeakable pain and joy beyond measure. I cried all the way home just replaying the impossible things God had done to bring my heart and hers to this sort of goodbye instead of hearing she’d left in an email from my mom or something like that.
Deeply grateful to serve a God who is all about the impossible and all about redemption.