I was walking to get tacos for lunch yesterday with an old friend because: friends 4-ever. And also: tacos 4-ever. 4 real.
A few weeks ago now, I gave a talk at the youth group where my friend volunteers. It was there that I learned that this friend, who I have known for years, was starting work a few blocks from my workplace. Hence taco-time together was penciled into our calendars.
At the youth group that night, the night after I spoke, I sat in on a small group discussion. The incredibly insightful youth minister said many things that I’ve been carrying with me, but one thing she said about friendship makes its way into this post. She said that: none of us are guaranteed good friends. None of us earn good friends. In many ways, friends are, instead, a graced gift to us.
My favorite kinds of friends are the ones to whom you say something like, “So, what’s God been doing in your life?” and they just start letting go until I emerge a woman with better insights and wisdom thanks to them.
So, I asked him about his faith experience. And he started telling me.
The entire lunch was a great, happy one–full of sharing and kindness and laughter and bright plans for the upcoming Christmas weeks.
One thing he said, though, as we walked up the cracked sidewalk to the taco place was about faith.
He said that this year had been a hard year for him. But, he also shared how that same hardship had helped him grow a lot.
He said he had always wondered if the faith he carried was just a by-product of the way he was raised.
It’s a fair question. The beliefs we hold–would we hold other ones just as tightly, as faithfully, if we had been born to parents who taught us, say, to bow in prayer towards Mecca a few times every day? Parents who, say, gave us menorahs instead of crèches?
My friend, though, said this: this year which has been a hard, stretching year for him, has taught him that, no, the faith is his.
But, he pointed out, he probably wouldn’t know the depth of his faith if it hadn’t been shaken to its very core.
It made me think about my year. I thought that “hope” would be a good theme for the year.
You don’t know the depths of something until you’ve been shaken to the core, right?
But, it has been interesting to see, in the face of a year that has kicked a lot of dirt in my face: hey, I think/ I believe that I still have hope.
Today a young woman I know will be married. She has been a bridesmaid seventeen times. That’s a lot of times, considering any girl who has been a bridesmaid even once has been told that stupid, “never a bride” lie. What a testament to hope, for this woman who kept loving, kept living, kept standing.
A couple I know who has prayed for a child for years now, has a tiny little baby, sized extra-small like a bean, but with the strong heartbeat of a living human, growing away. What a testament to hope.
A few weeks ago, someone said to me, “What if these dreams you have for the future are just ruses? I don’t think that they can come true.”
And, maybe that person is right.
But, today and tomorrow and the day after that, I’ll get to decide if I want to continue to fight for them and pray about them and pursue them or not.
And, you know what? I just want to keep fighting and praying and pursuing.
I guess that I, too, know hope.
But maybe I wouldn’t have known it in the same way if it hadn’t been challenged so fiercely.
So for this, too, I am grateful.