As a child I loved watching the “I Love Lucy” show. Lucy’s best pal, Ethel, was always by her side, and they were continually finding ways to weasel their way into a show business routine. One night as I sat in front of the TV, I watched another episode of my beloved Lucy, and the two friends were planning to do a duet on live television of a song called “Friendship”.
To find their outfits for the number they each shopped separately. When they reunited, they both ran excitedly to get their dress, came back into Lucy’s living room, and then whipped the dresses out of the boxes at the same time. All their joy turned to dismay as they saw that each had purchased the exact same dress. Downhearted, they both vowed to take their dress back and find something else.
On the night of the live performance, they came out from opposite ends of the stage, singing the first strains of “Friendship” with exuberance while looking at the camera. When they caught a glimpse of one another in mid-song they realized neither of them had returned the dress. Both had thought, “well since she’s returning hers, I can keep mine. SOMEBODY should have this beautiful gown!” As they progressed through the routine, they became angrier at one another, and each began to rip something off the dress from the other person—a sash here, a floral accent there. As the act became concerningly out of hand their husbands quickly shuffled them off the stage and the song about friendship ended with great insincerity.
My young heart was so distraught thinking that Lucy and Ethel were no longer friends. Thankfully, at the end of the half hour, they made up and laughed about their brief break-up. It was very unsettling to me, though, and I never wanted to go through something like that in my own life. Ironically, fractured friendship did happen once to me but there was not a happy ending. It was a searingly painful experience to go through.
Sometimes the things that happen are forgivable but not fixable, just like when your child breaks your favorite crystal vase. You forgive them for the childish carelessness, but you can’t fix what they broke. You don’t even know how to try, and it’s best swept up as fast as possible and allowed to not exist any longer. I cried every day in the shower for about a year when the friendship ended. I had things to do and other people in my life, so I limited my mourning to a timeframe. I was thankful God allowed me to pull that off so that I could function. I wrote letters and cards I never sent and poems that were never read. Honestly, I didn’t even pray for restoration. I knew it had to be the way it was. I stepped away from that relationship and moved ever so slowly into acceptance. I had never known friendship to be a painful place like this before. When it breaks like that, though, sometimes it’s for good.
I really may never know why the experience happened, but I know God used it for the good purposes of growing me, teaching me, and testing me. I believe testing is good for our faith. It places that mixture of belief in God and reliance on God out onto the stage of our life and doesn’t give us a second take. The test asks, “what is your faith really made of, right here, right now?”
When you can walk off the stage knowing you made it through with genuine trust in Him (a decision) regardless of how you feel, then you’ve passed. No grade is given, but you now know your faith was strong enough to be what was needed in the moment. Internally you might have felt like giving up, but instead you clung to Jesus, gave Him your heart, and wept out a “help me” that got you through. Eventually you and your faith were stronger.
Romans 8:28 says “and we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” He has a background plan that we don’t have clearance for. My favorite story in the Old Testament is the Joseph story. Joseph suffers greatly at the hands of many (even his own family) but 20 years down the road, when he has made it through and risen to a powerful position, all while trusting God, he sees his brothers again—the ones who intended to kill him, but changed their minds and instead sold him into slavery in Egypt when he was a boy.
There is a moment of truth when the brothers realize who the powerful man is that they are coming to for help because their entire family is starving due to a drought. Joseph then weeps out the pent-up pain he endured because of their cruelty and he says “do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you….so then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:5,8)
In Gen 50:20, Joseph goes on to say, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” In the Old Testament and the New Testament, we see God’s skill and promise of taking harm and hurt and growing good out of it. I gave a painful example from my life, a lost friendship, but yours might be very different. Whatever the loss or harm, remember that God takes those things and can weave eternal good behind it if you love Him and are called according to His purposes. It’s so hard to trust that when we are hurting. I love how Joseph remained faithful to God through his many tests, setting an example of trusting God’s character and promise, a beautiful picture of forgiveness, and an extension of grace that is certainly not earned.
When I think about this lost friendship in my life, I can now see good that has resulted. I could not see any of it then. I had to walk completely by faith and trust God’s word for my life.
And in regard to this friendship, I also know that one day we will both be in Heaven because I know she is a true believer who also loves Jesus. The brokenness of this world will be mended, which includes our friendship. All harm will be undone; we will have unbroken fellowship that we missed out on in our earthly lives but will get to spend eternity making up for lost time. Praise God for the day of mending!