Leaving behind the community of family and friends we were a part of in North Carolina was one of if not the hardest thing we faced in moving to Oklahoma. In the years we spent as a couple in NC, and in particular the last 12 or so, we all developed some really amazing friendships. Most of our friends were near our age, our kids were the same age, so we all essentially grew up together.
Some of those relationships were made even stronger as each of our respective families walked through hard times. Whether it was going through a tragedy ourselves or alongside of our friends, those common trials created a connection which deepened already good friendships into great ones. I’m eternally grateful for each one of those.
Upon moving to OK, those friendships were sorely missed. We knew, intuitively, that deep relationships take time, yet our hearts craved the closeness and nearness we had in those time-honed connections back home. Every one of us felt this, and perhaps our kiddos felt it even more so. As time and distance increased our awareness of it, we looked for the increase in new friendships here…only to find they didn’t happen as quickly as we wanted or hoped.
But they did happen.
And with life.
The reality is the greatest relationships aren’t built in a day, and they aren’t built in the good times so much as in the hard ones. Like steel forged through pressure and heat, deep friendships take time and, quite often, trial.
I think, when things are good, we can tend to keep it on the surface, and keep folks at arm’s length. When hard times come, we can believe we must keep things on that level and consequently fail to trust those around us with our struggles.
But sometimes…we get brave, or maybe simply reach our wit’s end, and walking through deep waters can cause us to reach out and open up. Maybe, just maybe, it takes trials and tribulations for us to realize we weren’t meant to do this alone. We need the strong arms of others when we simply can’t carry ourselves. We need their listening ears when we just have to get it out.
And make no mistake: we DO need this.
All of us.
We need to be open about our struggles, our fears, our hurts…and we need people around us who will not provide pat answers but also not blister us with judgment, but rather sit quietly and listen to us, remind us of the truth of the Gospel, remind us we are not what we do or what we can give others, and who point us to the love of God in Jesus.
And when we’re able, we can do the same for them.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;Isaiah 43:1-2
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
Here’s a thought that hit me this week: if the church is the Body of Christ, then one of the ways Jesus fulfills this verse from Isaiah is not just with an the knowledge of His being with us (though that is sometimes palpable), but He is also with us in the flesh and blood people we are called into life and fellowship with. Life isn’t a solo operation, meant to be lived in isolation. We are called into community together to walk alongside one another as we all try to follow Jesus. Some days, we carry others…and some days, they carry us.
I’m incredibly thankful for the friends we shared life with back in NC…they walked with us through so much. I’m also incredibly thankful for the community we’ve been grafted into here in OK. My hope is that as they have carried us we will be able to return in kind when called upon.