The Door Is Always Open
“I no longer call you servants . . . instead, I have called you friends.” John 15:15 NIV
Tolkien and Lewis. David and Jonathan. Piglet and Pooh. What do these all have in common? Friendship of the most unique variety. The kind of friend that can say, “Oh, you too? I thought I was the only one.”
Greg and I came back from our honeymoon to a big, mission-style house on Ninth Street in downtown Riverside. This was 40 years ago when you could rent a huge house in a sketchy neighborhood for less than what a nice dinner would cost you nowadays. I liked that old house with its high ceilings, painted wood floors, and enormous screened-in back porch. I can still see the late afternoon sun, filtering like gold through thin sheers that hung at the living room windows. It was a good beginning for our life together.
But those early months of marriage were also marked by a loneliness. To quote A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, “A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.” I had Greg’s heart all to myself—but I missed girlfriends. There was a great team of guys our age working at the church, but most of them weren’t married. With only one car, I was mostly alone during the day. I could spend hours cooking, cleaning, and rearranging furniture . . . and still have time left. Time when the only sound in that big old house was my own footsteps.
I grew up in a big family. Five children, four of us were girls. We moved many times and I learned to adjust to life in different countries. New neighborhoods. New schools. And me, the new kid. But I was never alone. My sisters were there. Looking back, I’m grateful I never had a room of my own. I learned to make room in my life, in my spaces, in my heart—at times, even my bed—for my sisters. And I loved it. Maybe that’s why I’ve always wanted close friends. I first had sisters for friends. To this day we still like the same things . . . British television shows, old movies, good books.
Thank God, I wasn’t lonely for long. I made a first friend in Riverside. Robin had a huge smile, sparkly blue eyes and an easy laugh. Her Elijah and my Christopher were born ten days apart. She lived within walking distance of our house. We were both as poor as church mice, and we became good friends while folding sheets, bath towels and diapers on weekly trips to the laundromat. “Hey, can I come over? Let’s walk to Dairy Queen with the boys and get an ice cream cone.”
Her home was small, but I was always welcome. She didn’t fuss about jelly on the counter or bread crumbs under the table, or toys scattered across the green shag carpet. Sometimes the smallest gestures can take up the most room in your heart. Her door was always open to me.
Then there was Karen, Karen, Kate, and Leah. I didn’t find them, they found me. They wanted to know their young (and clueless) pastor’s wife. These friends became the nucleus, my inner circle who helped me to start this beautiful women’s ministry.
Together, we prayed hard and worked hard. They came early and stayed late. We rolled up our sleeves, kicked off shoes, set up and tore down folding tables for meetings. We decorated with whatever we had that fit the theme (no budget for things like photo walls and centerpieces). We just loaded up our cars with our own furniture and decorations from home.
We were the graphic designers, the set-up crew, the platform people, the tear-down team, the speakers. And when I was too terrified to speak, Leah and Karen would even sit beside me on the couch, onstage. They cheered me on, told me I did great, even when I didn’t think so. Their lives were open to me. We loved all the hats we wore! We loved each other and we welcomed more and more into our circle.
Now there is Shelley, Marilyn, and Sue. These are the friends who stood beside me as I grieved and cried over my Christopher’s death. They listened and prayed and let me pour out my heart in sobs. And when I couldn’t laugh, or even smile, for what seemed like the longest season of my life, they were there. Waiting patiently by my side, often with a pretty handkerchief when I needed one. I never seem to have one when I need it most, but they did.
Every day spent with them, whatever we are doing, is a new favorite day. A best-day-ever kind of day. Their hearts and souls are open to me.
Reflecting on these and others who have entered my life and soul, I am grateful for this incredible gift of friendship. As I write this, I’m sitting in a cottage surrounded by lush hills above our satellite church, Harvest Kumulani, in Kapalua. Rain is coming down in sheets, blowing the huge pines, scattering leaves and cushions across the patio.
I won’t be going for my early morning walk among fragrant guava trees and wild liliko’i vines. Instead, I am savoring the fragrance of friendship. It’s a good time to write. Beside me, a tall iced glass of coconut water to sip as I tap away on my laptop. By myself in this quiet place, but I am not alone. Suddenly the power goes out . . . here in the cottage and in all of Kapalua and Napili, so I call a friend.
Me: “Hi Linda! Hey, can I come over? The power went out and I need to work on my computer.”
Linda: “I’m in town, shopping for a new washer and Ricky is still surfing, but you’re welcome to come over. The door is always open, so make yourself at home.”
Ricky and Linda Ryan have been close friends for almost a lifetime. We’ve never lived next door—or even in the same town—but people aren’t friends because they’re close in distance. People are friends because they’re close in heart.
“Is it okay if I use your wifi?”
“Sure, here’s the password.”
“Would it be okay to use your shower too?”
“Of course! You’ll find clean towels in the bathroom.”
“How about a hairdryer?”
“Well it’s yours if you can find it. Stay as long as you like. By the way, help yourself to the sliced watermelon in the fridge.”
Friends. What would we do without them in life?
When the rain comes down….when the power goes out….
I hope there’s a door unlocked and left open for you.
I hope there’s a heart that will carry your deepest hurts.
I hope there are hands to help and cheer you on.
I hope there’s a place at the table, nevermind the sticky jelly at your elbow.
And when there are no words, I hope you know someone is praying. You are never really alone. For what is friendship, if not a taste of the loving bond we have with our God and Savior? For He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).