There is this fact of life.
School. Employment opportunities. Warmer weather. Cooler weather. To be closer to family. To be as far away from family as possible. Because Portland seemed like a fun place and New York was killing her dead. Because California is too bloody expensive. Because the south is a good place to raise a family. People move.
When we moved a fourth of the way across the country and left everything I'd ever known I was precisely 65% devastated and 35% eager for the adventure. It surprised me, that 35%, on account of all the deep roots I had and the fact that I did not like the idea of digging them up. I've determined, however, that the unknown adventure is what keeps us putting one foot in front of the other one as we trek to our new destination.
But when we're staying put and someone else is doing the trekking, well, then we're just kind of heartbroken. And 100% devastated. When it's clear that God is leading them away, it's even worse because we're 100% sure we shouldn't feel that way. Except it's also better because we know that the Author of every chapter is writing their story. We focus on rejoicing over the fact that we were allowed to be written into it at all.
My friend, Abi, is leaving.
Initially, we were more like acquaintances. There was the occasional shared meal. We were friendly with one another, said hello on Sunday mornings, engaged in small talk. I attended her wedding. But a deep friendship between us would have been unlikely. She is quiet and reserved. I am loud and intimidating. I couldn't invite her over because she is deathly allergic to cats and I make it a practice not to kill members of our congregation. She was busy with earning an MFA in Modern Dance and I was busy with raising toddlers.
But our paths began to cross more frequently than just Sunday mornings. We served together on the worship ministry team. I discovered that her writing skills, quick wit, and knack for the sarcastic far surpassed my own. I chose not to be overly jealous of these facts and realized that this woman was quickly becoming someone I really liked being around.
Later, we started to sing together on the praise team. Somewhere, in those Sunday morning rehearsals, where some notes were hit and some weren't, where coffee might have helped if either of us drank it, where we were the only women on a stage of men, the beginning of a friendship was forged.
I prayed in my prayer closet that God would provide me with a like-minded ministry partner, someone who would rise up next to me and, maybe, one day, take the reigns of Women's Ministry. I believe in constantly looking for people who will come up and position themselves to be able to take over if need be. At that point I was, quite actually, looking for a wing man. (Wing Girl?) Like Tom Cruise in Top Gun, I needed a Goose. God whispered, "Abi." At that point, she wasn't even on the women's ministry team. We were slowly becoming friends. I couldn't just walk up and ask her to be my Goose. It would have been weird.
But God is always right.
Abi joined the team. She had a baby. Then another one. We bonded over events, retreats, baby barf, mommy fails, and Sunday school classes. We've stood side by side on the stage, our voices lifted in praise. We've served together. We've laughed and cried (something neither of us used to do with any regularity because we are actually a robot and a cyborg) and prayed.
And then God called her family to Texas. He closed all the other doors and left one wide open. It's just that the open door is a job in Texas and her kids are going to speak with accents and she'll have big hair and live far away from me.
I've prayed for her family like they were my family. I love her children so much they could come live with me and I'm pretty sure I'd just instantly believe they were mine. I've come to love her a whole, heaping lot. Her heart has wrapped itself around my own in such a way that the thought of doing ministry without her is crushing.
That's not meant as a guilt trip. I don't have to like it to know that it's God's plan. I can solidly stand in the court of not wanting someone to leave and still solidly know that she has to, that leaving is obedience, that leaving must happen.
My friend, Abi, is hilarious, brilliant, kind, patient, loyal, godly and faithful. She's some things that I am and a lot of things that I'm not. I won't speak for her--this could be completely one sided for all I know--but I feel a lot like Jonathan did. "Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." 1 Samuel 18:1
When they left each other, "Jonathan said to David, 'Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever,' Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town." 1 Samuel 20:42
Matthew Henry's commentary says, "The separation of two such faithful friends was grievous to both...Christians need not sorrow, as men without hope; but being one with Christ, they are one with each other, and will meet in his presence ere long, to part no more; to meet where all tears shall be wiped from their eyes."
I prayed for a wing girl and, for a short time, God gave me Goose. But, ever so much better than that, God gave me David.