Seventeen years ago, I went on my first women’s retreat for one reason. It was a chance to try white water rafting for only $35. Getting close to other women was not something I’d even considered because I was different than all of them.
Our speaker focused on the importance of having close sisters in Christ. She defined them as ones who knew our greatest joys and our deepest sorrows. They could pray for us when we didn’t know how or didn’t have the strength. Our assignment was to make a list of our five closest friends and then list three things we could do for each of them in order to nurture the relationship.
I clearly remember leafing through my overstuffed day planner – past the calendar that I worked very hard on keeping full – and turning to the back where the blank paper was. Looking around I noticed all the other ladies writing rapidly. I readied my pen, placed it on the paper and waited for the names. The pen did not move. I could not think of a single name to write down.
I had two thoughts at that moment. “There’s something wrong with me” and then, “I wonder if one of these ladies could ever be my friend.”
A short time later, settling into my assigned raft, I listened to the introductions. Out of those 40 or so women on the trip, three were named Hope and all three were in my raft. Yes, I was on the “Hope” boat.
Fast forward two weeks. Sitting in the pew, I listened to an announcement made by a lady from the rafting trip. She shared about an upcoming bible study being offered by the local pregnancy resource center for women who’d experienced an abortion. “I had one” she said “and I suffered terribly until I went through this study.”
Armed with hope, the greatest weapon of all, I joined the study. During the next three months, I was gently lead down the most difficult process of my life: coming to terms with the fact that I had ended the life of one of my children.
I learned about the character of God and that he sent his son to die on the cross for my sins. His grace and mercy were for me -even after what I had done. Now I had heard about this guy before, and I knew He wanted good things for his children – But I had simply been convinced that my invitation had the word revoked stamped across it.
I learned that I was believing a lie, that I had to make myself clean before anyone – especially God – would consider a relationship with me.
I learned that the reason I was so quick to anger was a result of the messages I was allowing into my heart. From society, from pro life people who spoke condemnation over those who chose abortion, and most damaging from my inner self talk.
I learned that God forgave me, and I had a responsibility to forgive those who had influenced my decision to abort, especially myself.
You see, once I got a glimpse of how God saw me – I was able to recognize that my inner voice of condemnation was abusing his beloved. Now freed from that nasty prison – I had a job to do – and I’ve been doing it ever since.
My best friend Kris commented today that my expression in the above photo looks like pure joy – and she is right. I find great joy in sharing my journey in order to pass on the weapon of Hope. The truth is – myself and the other ladies in the photo were discussing tough stuff – serving on the front lines of world missions, supporting wives of hurting veterans, walking beside women recognizing and grieving the loss of a child, ministering to children lacking family support. But that does not mean we cannot laugh and experience joy while doing it – God knows we need moments of joy to balance out the heartbreak.
What Kris doesn’t know –because she has abandoned me and gone south for the winter– is that the weeks leading up to this photo have been extremely hard. Not just hard like allergies, or death of a pet, or a financial set back – but gut wrenchingly and soul searchingly hard. (are those even words?)
Now in her defense, she is available via phone, Facebook private message, and email. But you see the things she has yet to hear can only be presented sitting side by side, and sobbing into my latte. Fortunately for me, I have other friends.
I thank God for those friends who know my biggest joys and my biggest sorrows. Who know how to pray for me when I don’t have the strength.
Do you have a few of those? One is not enough as they may not be available or you may lose them. My encouraging advice for you today is to ask yourself this question - Do you have several close friends who fit the above definition?
If your answer is yes – then why don’t you write them down and list some things you can do to nurture the relationship.
If your answer is no – please ask yourself why. It’s okay if you don’t know, it’s just not okay to do nothing about it.
Reach out to someone you trust. If you have no one, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll help connect you.