Once upon a time, in the year 2004, two girls jumped in a church van and headed toward Miami on an old school Southern Baptist youth mission trip. These girls, 15 and 16 respectively, knew each others’ first names and that was the extent of it.
On that trip, there were many hours in the van and they forged a friendship based on similarities. What made the friendship work for 12 years and counting are their differences. They stayed friends through high school and even as one headed off to college. E is the girl in the picture below. She was dealing with things lots of teenagers have to face which happen to be far past their maturity level. In the midst of all that, she retained a contagious sense of humor and a joy.
The two girls ended up at the same Southern Baptist university hating when people assumed they had picked the school based on one another. Because, ain’t nobody got the money for that kind of loosey-goosey decision-making. Anyway, it was there that their friendship was stretched and strengthened.
It was also there that E went on one of the school’s mission trips. GO Turkey 2009 was the start of something beautiful. She told her best friend (*spoiler alert* that’s me!) she was paired with this quiet guy who was “so weird” and “would be really awkward to work with.” Turns out, she fell in love with that guy and he was pretty crazy about her from the start. They married in Tennessee during the summer of 2010 when it was approximately the-surface-of-the-sun degrees outside, but they were so superbly happy they didn’t give two figs about the heat. (True story, a mosquito had landed on their officiate’s Bible so he smacked that sucker closed right in the middle of their ceremony…because West Nile.)
It was a privilege to stand up in their wedding and witness their lives coming together. There is no way any of us would have been able to predict all the laughter, heartache and victories the Lord would work in and through them in the six years between that day and now. What I can say for certain is the Lord has taught me so much through watching these two lives.
They’ve shown me what it looks like to have long stretches of waiting for answers, for results and to have your faith tested by this daily grind of trusting again and again.
As a single, I get to witness a husband loving his wife straight into the heart of Jesus, pointing her toward grace and repentance because he loves Jesus even more than he loves her. He lays himself down for her in big and small ways. And not to be outdone by a boy, I also get to see a wife loving her husband just a bit less than her love for Christ as she trusts what he says about the Spirit’s leading even when the Spirit leads them into scary, dependent places.
I see a couple who have had opportunity to lose heart in the hard times, who are honest when it sometimes feels unfair. They’ve taught me that asking questions about the timing of children is a tender and sacred place which should be tread lightly upon and respected. They show me the highest calling for a man is not to be husband or father, but to be a disciple who makes disciples and that the highest calling for a woman isn’t to be a wife or mom, but to be a disciple who makes disciples. She will tell you that her husband makes her a better disciple and loves her despite and right through seasons of joy and pain. He’d say he’s no stranger to tough times and can face them with more courage by leaning on her strength.
When she could have had a high-paying job in any arena she chose (this girl is uber smart) she chose to serve and not be served. She teaches children in a non-traditional school, some refugees and recently adopted, because she is passionate about righting injustice and seeing marginalized people dignified. He has been working very hard to earn a degree in counseling at a prestigious seminary as he is incredibly invested in the souls of people who are hurting and needing a safe place to be heard and to hear truth.
When the Lord called them to live out their hearts for urban ministry, they bought the most amazing old house in a zip code suburbanites find cringe-worthy. They love the children and families of that zip code well. They get to have impromptu Jesus conversations with neighbor kids which start with the kids asking what their tattoos say because…street cred, they have it in spades 😉 #straightouttamemphis
If you ask me, I’m happy to tell you, these two have been and will be one of my favorite living gospel stories. They are some of my every day heroes and I couldn’t be more proud to be one of their people.
So when in St. Louis, head a bit north and find a couple with an adorable puppy who will feed you homemade Thai food while they talk with you about the rich history of St. Louis neighborhoods, community development and ask about what you think about the refugee crisis. I can also promise you that you will leave with a laughing cramp in your side and a sense of genuine encouragement.
These folks are the best kind of friends.
Good friends will tell you what they know about God. Best friends will let you in on the questions they’re asking Him. Being present to those unanswered questions is an unparalleled gift as their sister in Christ.