The joy of friendship

We often hear it said that a pastor's wife cannot have close friends. But is it possible that there are other women like the author who need a kindred spirit to help them through life's hard times?

Maria Loren is a pseudonym
She came into my life one day just shortly after I had penned a poem of loneliness.

 

Whoever you are--

wherever you are--

come quickly

because I need a friend

different from all the rest.

I need a friend whose soul

is kin to mine;

a friend who can reach out

and heal my heart

with a gentle touch.

I need a friend

whose heart keeps time with mine,

for mine is out of step

with all the rest.

My Drummer is far up ahead.

His beat is clear,

but I must listen well

to march in step with Him.

Come, march with me

so I need not march alone!

 

The day she started working in our building another secretary brought her into the workroom and introduced us. She was tall, strikingly attractive, with a quiet dignity and what I recognized as an air of reserve and shyness. Each of us briefly acknowledged the introduction, but I don't remember with what words. I hope I welcomed her to our "team." I don't recall what we said; what made the deepest impression on me was her clean, natural beauty, her noble bearing, and the trace of quiet suffering in her eyes. I don't remember that either of us smiled. Perhaps we didn't. An introduction is uncomfortable for two reserved people.

As she turned to walk down the hallway to her office I was not aware that the Lord had just brought a precious jewel into my life, one in whom I soon would see a resemblance to the Pearl of Great Price. After I came to know her better I would recognize that her friendship had taught me much about what it means to have Jesus as a friend.

Because we were both reserved, it took some testing of the waters before we were able to converse easily. But in time I realized how accepting and responsive she was. I easily could have misinterpreted her reserve as unfriendliness, aloofness, or cold conceit. But beneath that exterior I discovered a humble, warm, loving, and gentle nature. She was a sincere and gracious lady, sensitive to the needs and hurts of others, but not intrusive. I recognized that she was not the type to impose her friendship on anyone, but neither would she reject friendship that was offered sincerely. She was a pastor's wife, a shepherdess.

First I learned to respect her intelligence and quiet spirituality. Next I learned to admire her creativity and her many skills and talents. And then I learned to appreciate her keen interest in all aspects of life. She was a compassionate, caring listener, one who listened with her heart and offered encouragement without judging. I felt that whatever I told her in confidence was safe in her keeping.

Our developing friendship was an adventure for me, because nearly every time we conversed I became aware of something we had in common. We shared an interest in books and art, an intense love of nature, a longing to write. We thought alike. We felt alike. We responded alike to life's experiences and challenges. We had the same basic temperament, the same ideals, and many of the same goals. We even shared some dislikes.

When I pondered these things I shook my head in wonder. We were so different, and yet so much alike, this quiet, kind lady and I. For the first time in my life I felt myself really a part of the planet, no longer an alien, alone. I had a number of wonderful friends whom I loved dearly, but I had always felt somewhat different from them. Now here was someone like me, someone in whose soul I saw a reflection of mine. 1 had never before experienced the type of friendship I had now embarked upon friendship with a kindred spirit. It seemed almost mystical.

We spoke about many things, but we never discussed our friendship. I don't know if she felt about it as I did. Perhaps she didn't take the time to think about it and analyze it. She had a family to occupy her thoughts and surround with her love. Perhaps she accepted our friendship as a matter of course. But my analytical mind pondered, evaluated, and savored it. It was something precious, something to be treated with the greatest care, something to be enjoyed and cherished and nurtured.

We could discuss serious matters, and we could tease each other and laugh together. When I referred to her as "a delightful study in contrasts," she quipped, "You mean I'm schizophrenic?" But she knew I didn't mean that. I just found her personality delightfully refreshing.

Because she had the courage to admit that she was emotional, I learned not to be embarrassed if she saw the tears in my eyes when something touched my heart. She had better surface control than I did, but a time or two we wept together. And we often prayed for each other and each other's concerns.

I wrote a poem for her one day:

A tulip pierced through the sod,

Summoned by some mysterious force.

It grew and grew, until at last

It formed a bud that

promised to be red.

But the spring was cold and wet,

And the bud stayed closed

In self-protection from the elements

Lest it be ruthlessly destroyed.

 

At last a warm day came,

And the bud,

with newfound confidence,

Parted its petals to display

Unrivaled beauty--and, oh, the joy!

You are like that tulip, Friend.

Reserved and quiet, cautious

Lest your heart be broken,

You protect your secret self.

But when warmth and love

Are offered you,

You learn to trust,

And you part the petals of reserve

To reveal an inner beauty

That is precious, unsurpassed.

 

I marvel at the beauty of the tulip And I marvel at the beauty of your soul.

 

 

And I, who love all beauty so, Thank God for tulips and for you. For more than three years we worked on the same floor and sat side by side at morning worship. For more than three years we shared memories, concepts, ideas, concerns, sorrows, joys. And then she moved away. When she told me she was leaving I closed the door of my office and wept in private. That time I could not let her see my tears. I had to be alone with my grief.

I suppose my friend has faults, for she is human, but I don't know what they are. She has so many delightful traits that I have no desire to look for flaws. Why should I when I can see the beauty of Jesus in her? She has been such a blessing to me and has enriched my life so much. A kind heavenly Father sent her into my life just when I needed her, at a time when I was attempting to piece my shattered life together into some thing meaningful and useful. My friend's understanding and encouragement sup plied the balm I needed, the "gentle touch." I learned to love her as deeply as my own sister.

Now we write often, and she is never out of my thoughts for long. So many things bring her to mind a song, a phrase, a poem, a picture, a flower, a bird, a book, a landscape, a characteristic in someone else. It is easy to speak about her to others. How I wish everyone could know and appreciate and love her as I do!

Once, in pondering my deep love for my friend, I thought, This is how we should feel about Jesus!

Indeed, Jesus is our greatest blessing. If our friendship with Him is strong and beautiful and brings us joy, we shall be able to speak about Him enthusiastically and joyfully. We shall want everyone to know and appreciate and love Him as we do! And isn't that the ultimate goal of Christian friendship to reveal the beauty of Jesus and make Him attractive to others? My friend, a gentle shepherdess, has done it well.

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Maria Loren is a pseudonym

June 1985

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