The Friend

by Rhonda, June 14, 2023

It was a sunny, hot day and the two of us were relaxing under the umbrella in the shade.  She looked across the pool, her boys playing loudly while splashing one another. We watched the boys, smiling at their antics.  

"Did you see the news on Ukraine today?" she asked me through the translator.

I had not.  I quickly put the search into my phone and saw yet another round of violence, death, and destruction.  She shook her head.  Two extremes presented themselves at once, as often happens in her life now.  Her boys were joyfully playing, peacefully in the swimming pool.  Meanwhile, her homeland was plunged in chaos and darkness.  Any joy she feels is always bittersweet now, mingled with sorrow.

Sometimes all you can do is sit quietly with someone, because there's nothing to say.  We eventually changed the subject and chatted about other things, but her homeland was never far from her mind.  

Our friendship hasn't come easy.  When you don't speak the same language, everything is awkward and difficult.  Misunderstandings abound, and despite our best efforts not to hurt each other's feelings, it can happen when translations don't work correctly.  

But, both she and I have an unspoken pact.  We're willing to work through the awkward.  We're willing to keep trying, keep communicating, because our friendship is worth it.  No matter how hard, we get out our phones, open our translator apps, and we keep talking.  Something rather amazing has happened as a result of our resolve.

We've learned we have a lot in common.  We laugh at the same things.  We are both moms, both lovers of adventure, and both highly sensitive.  It turns out we are fantastic friends, and the translation has become more of a bit of an inconvenience rather than a struggle.  We know each other's hearts, so we don't worry about miscommunications anymore.  We just laugh about them.

Only God could perform such a miracle.  

It must have been ten years ago that I asked God to please surround me with good, Christian girlfriends.  I wanted more than just shallow friendships, I wanted friends that I could share my faith with.  I wanted friends I could battle life with.  I wanted sisters.

God heard my prayers and he sent two good friends into my life that have been with me for years.  I am someone who has many acquaintances, but close friends are few.  So, these friendships are precious to me.  And here God is again, being faithful to a prayer I prayed years ago.

Another sister.  

Of course God knew all along that we would click.  His plans are full of infinite blessings, and discovering each of them is the joy of my life.  

Psalm 68:6 God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Another friend texted me this week.  How are you? she asked.  I'm recovering from surgery and she sent me a care package, full of thoughtful gifts.  We texted back and forth, and we ended up talking about her upcoming birthday party.  I am so excited for it.

How did this happen to an introvert like me?  I look over the past few years and think about what I've lost in my divorce.  I lost half of my family, as well as some special relationships.  I lost my support system and my sense of safety and security. But, yet here God is, being so faithful.  He sets the lonely in families, even if isn't always blood relatives.  

I am watching him recreate my family, whether through friends, a very special family from Ukraine, or through blood relation that has tightened around me.  My friends have stepped up in a huge way.  Empathetic family members have rallied around me.  It is new, and it is so very precious.  I know it could only be God because it is so miraculous.  

What kind of a God cares this much about my pain?  What kind of a God so thoughtfully replaces what's been lost?  His faithfulness is indescribable.  

I've seen him set the lonely in families before.  My kids are adopted from Russia, and I watched him work miracles to bring them into our lives.  I know He cares about us when we’re lonely.  I know He feels the hurt when we have lost those close to us.  It matters to Him.  I shouldn’t be so surprised He’s worked hard to replace what’s been lost.

Last night, my kids and I went out to eat at a Thai restaurant that we’d never been to before.  We tried a few new foods, talked about our day, and in the middle of our conversation, my son said, “Mom, I really like our new family.”  

I nodded, because I knew exactly what he meant. “God sets the lonely in families,” I said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately.”

“When He does, I think both are lonely, don’t you think?  Not just one person, but maybe both.”

Just then, our pastor walked by and stopped by the table briefly to say hello.  “Are you taking Mom out to dinner tonight?” 

The kids agreed that yes, they were, and we continued the conversation between the three of us as he joined his wife across the restaurant.  It was the craziest timing, in a new restaurant, just as we were discussing God’s goodness to us.  The pastor who taught us this very lesson about God setting the lonely in families appeared out of nowhere.

The more I thought about the timing of the appearance, the more I was tickled by God's creativity.  He didn't have to do that, but it really made us smile.  God continues to surprise us, delight us, and make us laugh.  I can't wait to see what He has in store next. 

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