My weekend with writing friends, wonderful as it was, quickly became overshadowed the very next weekend. This time, I flew to Orlando (a better place to visit in February than Chicago). This time, I was with friends from Romania.
Eight American women, my former teammates who served in Romania right after Communism fell, reunited for four days.
We had not been in the same place together for 22 years.
Old friends can pick up where they left off.
People asked if we had fun. Yes! We laughed hard. A lot. The decades apart melted away.
But fun? There has to be a better word. Because it was so much more.
All I can think of is the Romanian word: nemaipomenit. It means it can’t be spoken. There are no words to describe our time together.
It was important. Healing. Valuable. A highlight of my life.
Do you have friends like that?
Old friends can go deep quickly.
We talked non-stop. Each woman had enough time to share her life since 1995, followed by a time of prayer for her.
At times it felt heavy. We cried more than we laughed. We cried rivers of tears – but healing tears. There’s a lot of collective pain in that group. I think my life has been the easiest, yet I’ve experienced loss, too. Unexpected tears spilled out from me when it was my turn.
After our weekend ended, I squeezed in a couple of hours with another dear friend, one I met back in 1986 on my first international project. That trip to Yugoslavia changed my life and redirected the course of it. This friend has also experienced her share of hurt.
When I got on the plane, I felt like a limp rag, twisted and wrung hard, every drop of water released.
Old friends can share their souls.
On a soul level, we got nekkid together. We have shared experiences that we don’t have in common with anyone else in the whole world, except for the few of our tribe who couldn’t be present, whose absences were felt.
Others just can’t comprehend it. We couldn’t either, before we arrived, a clueless bunch of naïve young Americans, excited and hopeful. We lived in a place and time that felt other-wordly.
God called us to follow him to a people that he embedded so deeply in our hearts that when we left, we felt fragmented. We trusted him to provide what we needed to remain during dark and difficult days.
And yet we experienced unspeakable joy in seeing people who’d never heard of Jesus trust him. We bore fruit that remained, and bore fruit, which bore fruit … continuing on to this day. The joy offset the darkness.
After all these years, and all the pain, each of us still walks with God, still loves Him, and still wants to be used by him. Amazing! One friend said she’s learned to trust his heart in her grief. Our love for him is much deeper now. It’s more complete, more realistic.
Old friends can love realistically.
Survival in Romania in the early 1990s took all our emotional energy. We had nothing left over to keep up the facades we’d learn to construct before we moved overseas. We saw each other as we were. Our true selves.
We saw each other at our worst, but much more than that, we saw each other at our best. Our noblest and most inspiring. Our love for one another was authentic. Based on truth. Isn’t that what we all long for?
J. I. Packer describes the way God loves us:
“There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”
Old friends can bless our lives.
I believe we spend our lives searching for friends who love us like that. I’ve found some. They are gold. And I have hope that new friends will turn into gold some day. My life is blessed.
When you share history with friends, it isn’t stagnant. History is living. It continues to grow. It changes and deepens over the years.
These friends are more precious to me than gold. They are friends for eternity.