Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Friendship - Through Thick and Thin

The leaving of our old “church” left us bereft of friends. People who had lived with us, others who had known us for 20 or more years, no longer called, wrote or visited. Our house – once lively and full of friends day after day, was now mostly quiet.

Best Friend still was the same – as was the rest of her family. (They eventually left also) A few would go out for coffee if we asked - but most just acted as if we no longer existed.

The purpose of this post though is to tell you about the one couple that toughed it out. They were really good friends. We had been there from the conception of their relationship, the wife had lived with us for a few months, we had been at their wedding and we were in the midst of witnessing their first pregnancy. They ate dinner with us at least twice a week. We were very close. So when everything hit the fan it was very hard for them. They thought we had lost our minds. After all, it had been us to whom they had come with questions when things did not make sense. We had been the ones that talked them into staying a few times. We were the ones that told them that we didn’t want them to miss out on their destiny or leave the covering. Now we were the ones leaving, and with virtually no explanation.
One thing you need to remember. Seldom was there one in our group who spoke aloud their questions or voiced their problems to anyone else. And never had there been a leader who had. Not one. Even as we went through the process of leaving, Best Friend did not know. A girl that was living with us had no idea that something was up, and this couple, the closest people to us at the time had no clue that we were having a hard time or on the verge of leaving.

So when we had the final meeting with the Apostle and the Prophet of the church, and the leaders subsequently “explained” everything to the church that very night, our friends were virtually blindsided. We had tried to prepare them a few days before but again, we did not want to speak badly of the leadership or the problems we were having, so we were purposefully vague.

They came over that night, after the members had met and heard the “explanation” from our leaders. They cried. They were so mad at us. “How could you of all people leave,” they raged at us. We tried to explain it a bit without saying anything, my tongue tied by the teaching of “Not Touching the Lord’s Anointed.” By the time they left that night we thought we had lost their friendship.

But you know what? They waited a few days and then came over to tell us that they loved us and that they did not know what in the world was up but that we were “family” and they were not going to cut us off. They stayed.

It was hard at first. It was so awkward. Without the “Church” we had no common topics of conversation. If “church” did come up, we were so angry that it became impossible for us to really talk to them. They were not in a place yet of hearing us. So we kept the conversations ‘”safe.” It was still hard. All their friends were in the old church. The people that we had taught them to trust were still there. Nothing had changed except for our seeming disobedience of “walking out of covenant.” But they were determined to still love us and so they continued to come over.

Can I tell you what that did for me? It saved my life. It made me believe that true covenant, true friendship, was actually possible. That it was possible to actually work through something awkward and really, really hard with someone outside of your own family. (by the way, Best Friend actually falls into this category too but our friendship had been tested through the years by so much other stuff that this event actually did not strain it much)

As the months rolled on we became more open with our story. I think we also became less angry and more apt to talk about the whole situation where someone could listen to it and not be offended. They listened, they helped us process, they continued to love us. These “kids” (the age of our own older children) actually gave correction and asked some very hard questions.

This couple moved away this weekend. They are off to start another chapter in their lives and we could not be happier for them. That is what kids grow up to do. But I want them and you to know something. While I know they would tell you that we gave of our own lives. And I know they realized over and over the value of those dinners and a place to call home when they needed it. But the one thing that they will never realize is the place that they have in Husband’s and my and my family’s heart for doing the one thing that meant the most to us during this crazy, crazy year. They chose to love us – even when they thought that we might be wrong and deluded and crazy. They chose us.

And that, my friends, is true friendship. And for that I will forever be grateful. And to the both of you guys, may God richly reward you with friendships like you have been to us. Friendships, that will lift you up and sustain you through the toughest of times. And friendships that will in turn show you the heart of the Father towards us, his kids.

10 comments:

Tracy Simmons said...

Barb, what a beautiful post. Tears were there by the end. You have truly been richly blessed. I also have the true ones that have stood with me, right or wrong, and wouldn't walk away even when I was half crazy :-). Thanks for sharing this and causing gratitude to rise up in my heart to God for the wonderful friends I have.

malegra said...

What a wonderful friendship to have. Our story was nearly identical - guarded conversations, and no one asking enough questions to truly get the info we would have loved for them to have right as we were leaving.

We also had just a couple of folks who remained friends and who came to find out the truth from us as things fell apart. We're still friends today, and I love the honesty and openness we share.

Jeff McQ said...

Great post, Barb, and a great tribute.

Maria said...

Wonderful story, Barb. I'm more and more convinced that relationships are the heart of following Jesus. How courageous of your friends to continue to pursue relationship when the church was telling them to cut you off. You obviously discipled them well.

Barb said...

Thanks all.

Maria, it is really funny. No one actually told people or them to cut us off. It was just "understood." You would have to be in the culture long enough to figure this out. No one actually said it but everyone did it. A lot went on in private conversations and inuendo and half statements that created the climate of cutting someone off.
And I'm not going to take credit for discipleship in thier lives. My "discipleship" may have shown them just the opposite. Sad but the truth.

traveller said...

This story seems a metaphor to me for the way Father never gives up on us. Your friends were being to you exactly what Father is to all of us....faithful. I wonder if, through your friends, Father was showing you that he was faithful as well and would be with you through all your difficulties during those months?

To me, it demonstrates how important it is for all of us to be faithful to the most hurting needy people so that others may see what Father is like through our lives.

Katherine Gunn said...

Hmm... My Best Friend was thrown out after which I left. The story of her being thrown out will have to wait - but the senior pastor turned out to be anything but a 'shepherd' he claimed to be. I was asked to cut her off. All the leadership was asked to, essentially, pretend that she had ceased to exist (her and I were both leaders). I know that the other leaders were probably told to 'leave us alone.' And they did. If it hadn't been for the friendship that she and I had, neither of us would have made it. In that process (it's been over a year), we have learned that it really is all about the heart and relationships.

Anonymous said...

All of these comments are so true; along with the tactics of these spiritual abusers. It reminds me of the spiritual abuse survey at
www.wickedshepherds.com/spiritualabusesurvey.html

Many great articles as well!

Anonymous said...

Barb,
I'm sure this post will be a breath of fresh air to your friends as they make their way out of your home. It seems as though you were dually good to them - taking and giving in turn. THAT is what friendship is about. And to the prayer at the end of your post, I say a hearty Amen.

Jennifer F. said...

They chose to love us – even when they thought that we might be wrong and deluded and crazy.

What a beautiful, inspiring post. Thank you for sharing.