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patience not pretense

After a quick heads-up tap on the front door and a “Good morning!”, we let ourselves in and began to undo our winter layers in her entryway. “Come on in!”, she replied and added something about how the popcorn leftovers from their weekend just got swept up this morning in preparation for our arrival, and I acknowledged that I know exactly what that’s like. It’s a good thing we host sometimes, to force us into getting those final things done that otherwise go undone for too long.

And yet our gathering is not one of pretense. Maybe it was at the beginning, because it always is a bit that way when you’re still getting to know each other… but not anymore. We don’t clean to impress one another; we clean out of love for each other. After several years (at least 5-6, but I can’t even remember now how long it’s been) of regularly meeting together bi-weekly (with of course a few summer and Christmas breaks), we know each other and we would not be able to pretend to be someone we weren’t even if we wanted to.

This was confirmed for me as I wandered past all of the food my friend had beautifully arranged on her kitchen island to pull a plate out of the drawer. The moment my hand touched the drawer where I knew she kept her children’s dishes, it came to me right there… this is fellowship. Knowing which drawer to open in the kitchen of a friend – and being ok with those friends walking into my kitchen and opening my drawers, however organized or not they might be… this is friendship forged over time.

It was consistency that created this friendship at the start. We had moved “home” to the area where my husband grew up from several years and several thousand miles away. What shallow roots I had in this geographical area were about to be tested, and yet whether they stood the test or not I will l never know for sure because she began immediately to pull me back to the ground with new roots. She’d text often, asking if I wanted to meet at the park for lunch with our toddlers, or maybe at the children’s museum. The church we were both now a part of because of marriage to our husbands was new to both of us, but she did not let her own lack of belonging stop her from reaching into mine. As our children moved into their school years, our time commitments changed and as all relationships do, ours ebbed and flowed a bit. There was a season where our heart-to-heart connection happened while volunteer-baking in the big commercial kitchen of a local nursing home. Eventually, a Bible study group formed and four of us began meeting together, then five, and now six.

There are six kitchens between us and we take turns now – offering bread and coffee as a backdrop for studying whatever topic we are on at the time. It is a familiar routine, and so it is still consistency that keeps these friendships going – the regular commitment to keep gathering, even in hard and time-consuming seasons, even if we didn’t give the Bible study reading for this week it’s full due attention, and even if our bathrooms aren’t perfectly clean.

Making friendship work requires a willingness to bear a load of some kind, whether that be to bear the external burdens of another person (such as sickness or family problems), or whether that be forbearance with another person – essentially being willing to carry or hold not only their strengths but also their weaknesses (things that bug us about them, their blind spots, or their strong opinions), acknowledging that they are not unlike our own. It takes regular practice as well as trial and error for us to learn how to live out love toward each other, and so we have to be patient with one other. Love is patient first of all, by the definition we read in I Corinthians 13.

The perfectly-placed scones on a cake stand on my friend’s counter do not tell the whole story of her kitchen. Not far from the drawer that I had opened was her farmhouse sink filled with dirty dishes. We all know it’s usually impossible to make something beautiful without making a bit of a mess, and friendship is deepened when we do not pretend to be the exception to that rule… and we do not expect others to be either. Sanctification in all of us is a process that takes much longer than washing dishes and much goes much deeper than wiping off the counters. As we come together regularly I believe God’s commission for us is summarized beautifully in Isaiah 61:

“the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”

We gather because we are Sisters and we are Sisters because we gather. Broken-heartedness, bondage, grief, and heaviness have all had a place at the table sometimes, but the consistency has created a framework that we can each draw upon if we are willing to be vulnerable in our moments of weakness. Our kitchen tables can be places where we can exchange ashes for beauty and mourning for joy, to the glory of God, the Father “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” (Eph. 3:15)

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Hi, I'm Hannah.

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