As a teenager, I was a part of a dynamic youth group–it was large and fun and truly Christ-centered. There were men and women who invested in me tirelessly, who were devoted to my health and spiritual growth with an intensity I have not experienced again. They “got” discipleship. They planted seeds, they watered them, and they brought forth a harvest.
Their harvest–now middle-aged adults–includes a number of pastors and pastors’ wives, children’s and music ministers, missionaries, a successful Christian drummer (with seven Dove Award performances), a 700 Club producer, a “Senior Director of Digital Ministries” for In Touch Ministries, and homeschooling parents galore.
I am among another contingent, a contingent that sometimes seems less than. Friends who once sat with me on a sweltering church bus now lead hundreds to Christ, while my biggest Christian victory is being nice to a Kroger cashier. The kid whose parents hosted “Fifth Quarter Fellowship” rubs shoulders with Andy Stanley, while I drop off bags of secondhand clothes at students’ homes.
My friend Tasha and I were headed to Walmart last week, and she said, “Do you ever look at the other people from our youth group and think, I missed it somehow?”
I chuckled and replied. “You’re my personal minister.”
We have been friends for over thirty years, longer than I’ve known my husband. We are the dullest of friends. We do a lot of sitting in silence. We never take day trips; we don’t go shopping or see movies together; there’s not even a lot of eating out, except for a birthday dinner–ours are a day apart.
Most of the time, we either sit in my backyard or we do jigsaw puzzles. Either way, have the same conversations we have had a thousand times before about birds and marriage and kids and heartache and work–and the things we would do if we had the money.
Sometimes, I go to her house at night. I sit in her grandfather’s chair and pet her cat and eat Nerds.
It is all so plain.
It is so far and different from Michael W. Smith and women’s conferences and refugee ministry.
But Tasha–and friends like her–have stood close during my husband’s three battles with cancer. Have come alongside during the sorrows of our lives–miscarriages, failed adoptions, the stillbirth of my granddaughter. Have sat silently comforting us with their presence, bearing witness my family’s implosion.
If there is someone sitting placidly on your couch, no one can become totally unhinged. No one can throw china against the wall to hear its satisfying crack. No one can say mean things if there is someone calmly petting a cat in the recliner. On one of the most wrenching days of our lives–when it seemed the whole family would surely go, the ship would finally, this time, sink–Tasha and her son sat at our table eating pizza wordlessly, chewing and swallowing, sitting shiva.
And there were people–not a lot of them, but enough–who made those days bearable. Who dropped by and sat and told Greg funny stories. Who brought him egg drop soup and ice cream. Who cleaned his wound with me. Who were present.
That, sometimes, is the most important part of the Christian walk: showing up. Coming alongside. When the cancer comes back; when the baby dies; when the adoption falls through.
Because all cannot truly be lost if your friends are still there.
So, when you are evaluating 2018, when you are looking back and seeing all your nots--the weight you did not lose, the money you did not save, the daily Bible reading you did not do–I would encourage you to see the things you did do.
You were a friend. You went to a funeral. You wrote a note. You sent a check. You answered the phone in the middle of the night and then, you listened until dawn.
You sat at a sad family’s kitchen table and ate pizza.
You were a personal minister, a reminder of the love of our real and living God.
And that’s a pretty spectacular thing to be.