Engage

Sharper in Real Life

This month, I am honored to feature the writing of a woman who has come into my life in the last two years. Today, she shares the joy, freedom and growth that we experience through friendship.

I remember the first time she came to my home. I was hosting a birthday party, and her daughter was at the top of the guest list. Though I didn’t know her well, we worshipped together, and I knew we had things in common: we loved music, we married sports enthusiasts, and we were each parenting teenagers, newborns, and a few in between.

We greeted loudly that Saturday morning: giggly girls hugging hello, baby sisters screeching from car carriers, and several ladies chattering happily. My house was filled with festive decorations and a sweet aroma. Rooms were tidy and the food was fully prepared. I welcomed her in with a smile. A few minutes later, she pulled me aside and asked if there was somewhere she could nurse her baby privately. Hmmmm. As dread replaced cheer, I forced the continuation of my smile.

Yes. I have a rocking chair in my room. That room that never got cleaned this week, that was the staging area for most of this party’s projects and preparation; that room that currently houses no fewer than four laundry baskets filled with all the random junk we collected from around the house as we cleaned. Oh, Dear Heavens. Yes, I have a place. I looked her in the eye and confessed. “You are welcome to use my room. But if I let you see my room today, I must tell you, like it or not, you and I are about to become REAL close friends!”

At that point in my life I lived within a binding veil of perceived perfectionism. The truth of my messes was hidden away, so no one could know the reality of my short fallings. But on that day, God used this glorified acquaintance to penetrate the boundaries of my pride. Turning the knob to my bedroom door surprisingly opened a pathway to peace … but it was hard. Exposing the cluttered mess surrounding my unmade bed – which symbolized my disheveled soul – also exposed my fear of being known and rejected. But there she went, confident and gracious. She did not gasp in disbelief nor silently conceal her disgust. She happily high-stepped over a basket of [stuff], and swayed with her infant while I tossed a pile of clothes away from the rocker. Then she sunk into the chair and smiled a grateful grin as I slipped out of the room. We will 100% have to be besties after this.

Our friendship grew quickly and easily in the fertile soil of humor and humility. It sprouted in the soaking, cleansing rains of unexpected transparency and blossomed with continued honesty. Over the years, she and I have enjoyed the freedom to be real. At times we misunderstood each other which caused hurt and confusion, but we always continued the conversation until it landed in a peaceful place. Sometimes we were sorting through my junk, while other times we were hashing through hers. Many times we simply enjoyed the deep, true comfort of a smiley wave from someone who knows you well … and loves you anyway.

She shared parts of her most difficult journeys with me. She consistently offered me the truth of her humanity by being honest about her struggles. She is gifted and talented and strong in so many ways, but has rarely refrained from treasuring her weaknesses in front of me. One January when I hit rock bottom, she was the person I called. I couldn’t be sure how others might react to the ugly pit in which I had lost myself. Some might gloss over my plight and downplay the severity of the crisis. Others might absolutely panic in the thick, blinding smog of my recent emotional implosion. She neither bolted nor belittled. She listened. She prayed. She said she’d be there if I needed to talk some more, and we journeyed onward.

I thank God for that birthday party and that breast-feeding baby. I thank God for not leaving my heart trapped behind the walls of denial and pride and fear. Allowing our stories to spark against one another in God’s love and truth, we each walk ahead better prepared to live victoriously. [Proverbs 27:17]

Tools cannot be sharpened for use if they remain hidden away in their protective case.

When we surrender to the discomfort and friction inherent in real comradery, God hones our hearts to fear only Him, and leads us further to find true comfort and protection in His kind and holy presence. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:10

Cari D. Johnson lives in Beckville, Texas. She has been married to Phillip for 26 years, and together they enjoy parenting their seven children ages 24 to 7. Besides her people, some of her favorite things are well-written books, a clean kitchen, kettle popcorn, and kind words.

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

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Catharine Griffin

Catharine Griffin was born and raised in Covington, Georgia. She earned an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2012. She enjoys mentoring and discipling college women and is currently doing so at East Texas Baptist University. She is passionate about hearing people's stories and helping people see their potential in Christ and serves this calling out as a Licensed Professional Counseling Intern. She has also been coordinating ministry to women for several years in various churches and longs to equip women to serve the church with biblically sound teaching. She seeks to help women discover their spiritual gifts, learn from their experiences in life and the Lord, and grow exponentially in their walks with Christ. As motherhood seems to seek her out, she hopes to encourage a few mothers along the way. She is currently serving as a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern. She is a mother to three boys, wife to a Baptist Student Minister, and enjoys teaching, writing, cooking and all things outside.

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