I am convinced that I have the best friends in the world. I don't say that as any boast in myself, nor do I say it in a juvenile "my friends are better than yours" kind of way either. For the way in which I was created - the good, the bad, and the curly - I truly have better friends than I could have ever hoped for. A more recent friend of mine posted an entry on her blog this week as a tribute to a woman whom we both know personally and love dearly. As she went through the many ways in which this priceless, beautiful woman has impacted her life, I couldn't help but look back on the years when we were in close proximity and I was touched in some very similar ways. I had the opportunity to sing with her on numerous occasions, some of my favorite times spent singing at the church we attended. More than that though, what impacted me more than merely singing with her, was how she daily lived out the words we so often sang. I will never forget listening to her sing, "O praise Him all His mighty works, there is no language where You can't be heard" in the days following the news that her husband was officially in remission following his extensive battle with cancer, and hoping that I would one day come to grasp the kind of covenant relationship she has with him. There are very few seasons I remember from my adolescence in which she was not present or of some significant encouragement.
During the preparations for my wedding rehearsal and dinner back in January, I had to finally correct my dad on something he had been saying over and over again. I don't ever deny how blessed I am by the individuals the Lord has placed in my life over the years, but sometimes I think my dad thinks that I forget (though he doesn't intend to come across that way!). As we were getting things ready and I was saying my first hellos to the friends I hadn't seen in seemingly forever, he stood back and said, "That is so amazing. I am so glad you have the friends you have had because you wouldn't be the same without them. I want to thank them for being such a strong support to you, because you wouldn't be who you are without them." It sounded so nice, but I still had to correct him - not because he was wrong necessarily, but because our perspectives are so different. My dad looks at my friends and the older women in my life as the direct cause of why I have grown in the ways I have over the years, including these ladies serving as the direct influences that veered me from making bad decisions early in life. I don't see things the way he does; I can't, because I see them as so much more than direct causes.
What would our lives be like if the outcome was dictated by the influences and voices around us? Would we not all be ruled by the wisdom and direction of man rather than of God? For those whom He has adopted as sons and daughters, there is hope and confidence which surpasses all that the world has to offer. How much more incredible is the truth that these women I have been influenced by have been instruments in the Redeemer's hands? How much more incredible is the truth that these women, in unique ways deemed best by Him, were open vessels willing and available to encourage at the appointed times? And how incredible is it that we don't always know when our words are going to used at any given point in time to encourage or convict our fellow brother or sister. I had no way of knowing in junior high that the friend whom I had the honor of co-authoring, "Light a snail, light snail, shove a firecracker up his butt..." would be the one whom I immediately want to email about my latest questions or concerns about anything pertaining to life (You must ask permission from one of us to see the full lyrics to this creative tune.) I was oblivious to the idea in elementary school that the friend whom I played blind tag with (complete with bedsheets over our heads) would be one that I always want to call first to tell the current exciting news to about engagement and jobs and any other big events. Who would have ever thought that the sweet, quiet girl I spent one year in school with at the tender age of five would now be the one who keeps me sane day in and day out at work? And never would I have imagined that the words from older women spoken during my early years would make so much sense now, whether pertaining to marriage or the pains and joys of planning a family.
I can't even begin to give these ladies any of the credit, and I don't think they would want such credit for themselves. We are each instruments, vessels of mercy, and we never know when we are going to be used in the lives of another. All we can ask for is humility, acknowledging that we don't have the words of wisdom or encouragement needed in a particular situation, and trust that His words are true and life-giving. I now look at my best friends, the ones who have stood beside me all of these years, the ones who all live miles and miles away, and I am thankful that the Lord saw fit to cross our paths as He did. Only by His grace am I who I am today, still growing even when the process is painful, and only by His hand has each of these women been intricately created and used by Him to bless. So for those of you reading this, you know who you are ~ I praise the Lord for you~