Molly was my best friend, hands down. We met at Mrs. Krumick’s desk in third grade, as I watched her staple her thumb, then stare at it in disbelief while I waited for her to scream, but she didn’t. Molly was blond. Her mother was the only single parent I knew back then; a widow from Virginia with a funny accent like my mother’s, who worked as a nurse back when nurses wore hats and white everything. She married her husband’s brother, who we knew as Uncle John, but I always knew Molly’s mom didn’t love him, she just wanted him around, like a friend.
To me, friendship was essential, like owning a bike. Every time we moved, I canvassed the new neighborhood, knocking on doors and asking for friends. It seemed simple enough. You played; sometimes my house, sometimes theirs, or the wide-open world in between filled with playgrounds and bike rides and climbing trees. Then you went home to eat dinner. I loved Molly’s house because her mother always had Velveeta cheese in the fridge and came home late so we could blast the Hi-Fi and sing Please Please Me and jump on the couch, while Uncle John read the paper in the dining room.
But I’ll never forget the day I went to school and met Molly at the bike rack where we always met. Tracy was with her. Tracy had pretty long straight hair that she wore to one side and a swimming pool. I’d been to her house too. Her mom was severe and always saying, “Tracy dear…” like in the movies. Anyway, I could tell right away something was wrong by the way Molly and Tracy looked at each other and giggled and stood close. Then Tracy stepped towards me.
“Molly is my best friend now.” Tracy jutted her chin upward like my brothers did when they were going to spit. Molly said nothing but had a little smirk and kept looking down and it occurred to me my mom was right about her being not too bright.
Now it’s funny but I can’t remember what I said. I’d like to think I just walked away, or stared them down like Billy jack but it’s unlikely because I always had a big mouth and my brothers taught me how to fight. So I probably said something like,
“You can have fat, ugly, stupid Molly cuz you’re fat, ugly and stupid too.”
I do remember Tracy kicked me in the shin. Then I went into full-out combat with my fists and a teacher stepped in while I had her in a headlock and pulled us apart. I know Molly and I became friends again, and I know I swam in Tracy’s pool again, but what stuck with me that day is how frail relationships are, how fickle we humans are. Oswald Chambers said,
“Our Lord trusted no man; yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, never in despair about any man, because He put God first in trust; He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for any man. If I put my trust in human beings first, I will end in despairing of everyone; I will become bitter, because I have insisted on man being what no man ever can be – absolutely right. Never trust anything but the grace of God in yourself or in anyone else.”
This encourages me because there is hope for me. I’ve been trying to work through some hurt and disappointment in some people that I love. I know they don’t want to hurt me but sometimes a kick in the shins is easier to deal with than weird grown-up stuff. But the same grace that Jesus poured out on the cross for me is the same grace I must give to others.
Several years ago now, in fact the very day after my son died, I lay down to quit. I can’t explain what that feels like or even how it would’ve played out, but God knew and He literally came into my bedroom where I had pulled the covers over my head and shook me. I could feel His glory outside of my darkness.
He told me He would love me no matter what I did, but then he made this proposal: He said that if I opened up my heart, He could use it to bring people through. But he said if I opened up the door to my heart, I had to leave it open, all the way. No opening and closing or just halfway. And then after I lay there a while, watching people, strangers, coming up a long road, I said, “Okay. I’ll do it.” I didn’t jump out of bed shouting Hallelujah. I just lay there, letting His love wash over me. My wounds were deep and wide and it hurt just to breathe but I could feel healing begin. And as raw as I felt, I pushed the door open. All the way.
This morning I told my husband I’m glad he is my best friend while we were sipping hot tea and watching the birds feed, but I know only Jesus can really own that place. It’s cold out and the days are waning quickly. The sadness in my heart tugs at the doorknob and begs me to come inside where it’s safe. I guess I’m not as tough as I was when I was eight. Perhaps God gave me that memorable visit so that I would never forget my promise. “I’ll do it.” The door stays open, even when I want to quit.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT
We are fragile and prone to faithlessness, but somehow God has chosen us, you and me, to carry His treasure so that others will see Him in us. Just when we think we can’t love anymore, he pours buckets of grace into our broken hearts and we are healed.
I’ll leave you with something I found in one of Spencer’s journals a few weeks after God showed up in my bedroom:
This life is nothing more than a pilgrimage to heaven.
This journey is a journey of the heart
A lot of Christians had more of a sense of pilgrimage before they got saved. We got saved because we were searching. For home.
The highway to Zion (heaven) is through our hearts. We’re going to appear before God. This is a victor’s path.
May we journey together, in His grace, upon the victor’s path.