“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3, ESV)
I want to start this blog series with gratitude. In the planning phase, I was thinking about all my friends, all the hard things and the amazing things, and I am so grateful. I have been surrounded by some cool people, ladies and gents who I call “Philippians 1:3 friends” even though I know it’s incredibly cheesy. It’s basically an Etsy business waiting to happen. Someone, write it on some burlap, and it’ll sell itself.
Jen Hatmaker wrote a book called Of Mess and Moxie, in which she encourages her readers to “fangirl your friends.” I have, as the kids say, zero chill. Jen can probably attest to this, as I low-key (very low-key, thank you) stalked her in the Grand Rapids airport when we were both trapped there for 12 hours during an ice storm this past April (Thanks, Michigan). I think I was minimally creepy and I probably talked to her like a person, not some mythical creature who poops rainbows. Regardless, I can go majorly overboard when I’m jazzed about something or someone. It’s mostly things like Lord of the Rings, Sherlock, and a long list of authors and comedians with whom I would very much like to be friends.
But I am surrounded by humans who are doing incredible things in their everyday lives. I have a friend who is leaving for India tomorrow to work with a non-profit called “Women of Worth” for ten days. I have a friend who just got back from 4 weeks in SE Asia visiting factories and companies as part of her thesis research. I have a friend who is about to buy a house. I have a friend who is about to get married. I have a friend who is stepping out into a career as a producer. I could go on all day. We are surrounded by people who are making all sorts of brave choices all the time!
A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about a mentor of mine who had a profound impact on my life. OK, fine, I was practicing (out loud) for a speaking gig at her church or in her area which I do not have. I was talking about intimacy and how the people we surround ourselves with shape who we become, for better or worse. And in thinking about Meg and all that she has meant to me, I was getting all weepy and sentimental because she loves Jesus and people authentically with her whole self. The next day I decided to text her and let her know how much I thought of her.
Here’s what I wrote:
You were with me in some really dark times in my life and I’m so grateful for that. But the Lord used your presence as well as your absence during that time. There were times when you were too busy to text back or answer the phone or hang out on my timeline because you are a person. In those times, I had to be alone with Jesus, which was scary. Several of the times I reached out, I was looking for a security blanket. But when I had to be alone with Jesus, I grew to know him much more intimately. I met Immanuel in those broken moments of fear and anger and confusion, and it’s made me stronger. All that to say I’m thankful for you and to remind you that HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT. He created us with limits so that we would constantly have to keep going back to HIM. I’m thankful for your gifts, which are many, but also for the bits where Jesus gets to take over.
She responded, “That is the VERY BEST news I could ever hear. So much freedom to know that He uses me when I am present and absent–when I am doing a bang up job and when I am totally blowing it.”
It took maybe 5 minutes to send that text, a little reflection, and a minimal awareness of what was going on in her life (thx, social media). I did not know, when I sent that text, how much it would mean to her. It was an act of remembering and expressing something true, though not necessarily groundbreaking by cultural standards (by which I mean she didn’t write a best-seller or release a platinum album or win an Emmy or whatever). But it was worth saying.
There is something powerful in saying things out loud, and iterating what seems obvious. Of course, I am thankful for my friends. Of course, I am proud of them. But if I don’t say it, we might forget or become stuck inside our own heads, which is not always the most encouraging place to be. Reflecting on my friendship with Meg was likely just as good for me as it was for her. It was a reminder of the inspiring and encouraging person she was, is, and is still becoming. Even the friendships that are now broken, or friends with whom I’m going through a rough patch, I am thankful for them. Gratitude is a way of seeing each other, and letting our friends know that they are seen in their struggles and their joys. I don’t believe we can underestimate the power of such a gesture.