There once was a little girl who wanted a friend. She was kind and friendly, lively and fun. She made friends easily but had trouble keeping them. She wanted a forever friend. So she asked the wise sages how to make friends and keep them. More than anything, their answers confused her. Then the little girl grew up and understood. She had a forever friend already. She had known His name her whole life. Jesus Christ.
My aunt called and read me her story just after returning from another round of chemo to ward off the cancer that has already metastasized throughout most of her body. We have enjoyed a beautiful relationship that has grown into such a special friendship since she was diagnosed with bone cancer years ago. We have laughed and cried through emails chasing back and forth across the country. She has communicated important family history and I have learned to know my grandmother (who died before I was born) through her stories.
We share common quirks and generational pain. We encourage each other to find healing in Christ who bore our pain and carried our sorrows. We share a daily battle with physical pain and weakness and disappointments (and small triumphs). It’s hard to watch the disease hurt her body and, in some ways, I miss her already. Yet we listen for God’s encouragement every day and are eager to write each other these experiences and the Bible verses that mean much to us. Little by little our faith has been strengthened by this regular connection and spiritual focus.
We both belong to churches that have been marginalized and misunderstood in our society. Our differences set us apart in our communities and sometimes the general public confuses us with each other. She understands the challenges of being different. She writes to my children to stay strong in the faith no matter how they may feel or are treated. For the first time in her life, she can openly share on a spiritual level with someone else and be open about her beliefs without fear of ridicule.
She encourages me with stories of her challenges in raising a family. Back then knowing Jesus was not as central as it is now. In a recent email she told me how the cancer and treatments were affecting her ability to read the Bible. She said, “Please read the Bible. I thought I had time.”
At first I had no idea of the spiritual impact of our messages to each other. My first clue came when she said how much she had learned about God from me and that she could tell when I wasn’t having a good day, physically, because I didn’t include a Scripture verse. I was just living life and sharing it with her—I wasn’t out on a soul-winning venture. I just loved her and wanted to get to know her again after a block of years apart since I was a child. I believed she was secure/trapped in another belief system where I wasn’t about to attempt entry.
As we asked questions of each other, we were both learning. All these things were orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, who has access to every willing heart. He could have “winked at her ignorance” and invited her to heaven based on the measure of faith she had. Her acceptance of Him and His mercy are enough. The way I looked at it, she has a terminal illness, so why bother her with details. (But Jesus’ promise for abundant life is for now.) Jesus came to bring life and to bring it more abundantly.
Since Jesus Christ became her forever friend her quality of life has risen dramatically. She has been able to cope with many difficult situations; she has worked through memories and found healing from many past wounds. Her present relationships have been sweetened by humbleness and patience. She has been willing to let go of grudges and seek reconciliation more quickly. Her awareness of her imperfections have not overwhelmed her as much. She knows where to go for help. And she knows she will find help when she takes her troubles to God. She knows Him as her Savior and her Comforter. And she has also grasped onto some of those “details” I was skittish about sharing, but find delightful, like the Sabbath.
I am also that little girl who has looked my whole life for friendship. What fun it will be in Heaven to join hands with my aunt and run down the streets of gold to the Tree of Life. I’ll ask my forever friend Jesus for a boost and we will climb up and taste the most delicious fruit and share in the joy of our Beloved Lord.
Our heartaches will be no more and neither will we be hurtful anymore. How merciful is God to help us through those things now, but I can’t wait for the completion. Perfect wholeness. Perfect harmony. Perfect love. “And thus we will ever be with the Lord.”