“If you hurt my friends, I’ll hurt you!”
I didn’t know whether to be mortified or laugh out loud when I heard those words come from my 3 year old’s mouth while playing cars on the kitchen floor as I cooked dinner. I’m not sure where he got it and, of course, I don’t condone retaliation or vengeance, but I was struck by the intense loyalty behind those words.
If you hurt my friends, I’ll hurt you.
We had recently returned from a trip out to Ohio where I was blessed to spend a little time with some of my very best friends. God has blessed me with several deeply personal friendships and though I’m separated by hundreds of miles from many of them, that weekend had provided an opportunity to catch up a bit with some.
Three women now pushing 30 sat down in Cedarville, OH to have lunch together. Though we are much different now than those 3 college students that graced those same streets years ago, we still know each others’ hearts perhaps better than most anyone else.
One was an instant friend from one of the first days of freshmen year. We shared the same advisor…until she decided that she was not quite insane enough to teach middle schoolers and instead switched to early childhood education. 🙂 Still, God put us in the same dorm, same speech class, same circle of friends…there was no denying the sister-like friendship that would bloom…and flourish for the next 10 years.
The other was only an acquaintance until junior year when we admitted to both purposefully avoiding walking with each other to our shared class the whole way across campus because we each enjoyed that time alone to think and pray. We had a good laugh over two extreme extraverts avoiding interpersonal interaction…and then decided that maybe we were too much alike to not risk getting to know each other better. She quickly became a friend who usually knew exactly what I was thinking before I said it (or had been thinking the same thing, but wasn’t afraid to say it before I had the guts to) and understood me deeply.
That weekend, as our lunches were brought to the table and we bowed our heads to give thanks together, tears welled up in my eyes. I was overwhelmed by the extreme comfort I found simply by being in their presence. How easy it was to breathe. How relaxed I felt in my own skin. How confident I felt in their understanding of me.
These three women who had eaten countless meals together in the college cafeteria.
Prayed each other through exams, family stresses, illnesses, big decisions, sin struggles, jobs, and dating relationships.
Stood beside each other on wedding days.
Rejoiced when babies were born.
Mourned when a baby died.
Entered a sacred dance of both sorrow and joy when one womb opened while the other stayed closed.
Hold tightly to each other while a little African boy still waits to enter his forever-family in Ohio.
Laughed enough to outweigh the tears.
Shared both long distance phone conversations that took hours and quick, frantic text messages that took seconds.
Have had misunderstandings, hurt feelings, selfish motives, and many opportunities to practice apologies and forgiveness. (As Ann Voskamp said, “EASY is how you rate recipes, NOT relationships.”)
Three women who, 6 years out of college, still wrestle through the same questions of who they are, what God’s called them to, and how to live with eternity in view.
We could have easily sat and chatted about surface things while glacier layers stayed hidden underneath…but we dove right into stripped down, nothing to hide, vulnerability. Safely revealing heart struggles. Intense accountability. Penetrating questions. Intent listening. Genuine empathy. Speaking Truth.
“If you hurt my friends, I’ll hurt you.”
We have an enemy that wants nothing more than to destroy each of us. Destroy our friendships, our marriages, our ministries, our identities, our view of our Father and of Truth. Against THAT enemy, I am ready and willing to do battle on behalf of my friends.
“For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!…And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a three-fold cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:10, 12 (ESV)
I finished those last sentences a few hours ago and let them simmer while I left to meet with one of the girls I’m discipling. While driving there, one of these “three-fold cord friends” that I wrote about called for me to do battle on her behalf. It only took a few minutes…300 miles apart…but she talked and cried, I prayed, then she wanted to do the same for me.
And we again thanked God for the incredible gift of friendships like this.
Standing stronger than we could alone.
This is true friendship. I pray that my little boy can one day experience it, too.