|CC Bloom and Hillary Whitney
from the movie Beaches
noun – a solemn promise or undertaking
Been thinking a lot about friendships lately. Not sure why. Could be for several reasons: I left a lot of amazing friends behind in the states, or because of the difficulty of building close friendships in short-term living arrangement. But in reality, it’s probably because I recently reconnected with a “bosom*” friend after several years of here and there phone calls and visits.
Obviously I don’t see her everyday, but we have made a pact to email one another every week. We’ve simply promised to write about everyday life: mom stuff, wife stuff, husband stuff, good stuff, and bad stuff. We share our worries and our triumphs, and our current spiritual status, happy or sad. In other words we share the good, the bad, and the ugly. For the past several years, this same friend has been going thru hell on earth in her personal life. To be honest during much of the same time, I was experiencing a hell of my own. Each of us found it more convenient to retreat within ourselves and deal with our problems alone. Needless to say, our friendship held on by a thread. Not because we didn’t like one another but because we didn’t invest in one another. Our burdens too heavy to load another down with, but that’s exactly what we should’ve done. We should have been Ruth and Naomi.
It’s interesting to note that Ruth and Naomi’s story doesn’t begin until the difficult parts of their lives (Ruth 1:1-5). The story starts with the deaths of Naomi’s husband and sons; in Ruth’s case, the death of a husband. The two women were preparing to separate and deal with their difficult journeys alone. Yet in that painful moment of a grief-stricken goodbye, Ruth pledges her unwavering friendship and love to Naomi. What is often quoted as a pledge between man and wife at a marriage ceremony is really a pledge between two female friends.
“Do not persuade me to leave you or go back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May •Yahweh punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).
My worry is that few women today make this pledge.
Although Ruth’s words seem simplistic, they are packed with power. She would follow Naomi–wherever–to be her support in a strange land, a source of comfort no matter how unfamiliar the surroundings.
Have you pledged this to a friend? Well, you probably haven’t moved to a new town or traveled the dusty road out of Moab, but have you gone to the unfamiliar places of depression, marital abuse, infertility, financial crisis, or even infidelity with a friend? Were you a listening ear, an encourager, an intercessor? Did you go to the dark place with her simply to hold her hand, be a familiar face in that strange land?
Or was it easier to avoid the phone calls that required you to listen to her pain, share her tears, endure her whining? You didn’t have the right words to say, so why bother listening. Besides, you have problems of your own, right?
Ruth could have left Naomi and gone home to a familiar place to rebuild her life. In fact, she would have had better chances among her own people. Instead, she journeyed to a strange place with Naomi and worked to provide for her. What did she receive in return? A better life than she could have hoped for and a redeemed life for Naomi as well.
Friendship pledges aren’t to be taken lightly, nor should they be given to many, but they should be made. For it is in the kept vows of friendship that eternity is altered. You’re choice to travel the dark places with a friend might be the only reason she walks out of it back into the Light.
*”A bosom friend, a really Kindred spirit.” Anne from Anne of Green Gables.