Freedom in Friendship

No one prepares you for the feeling of leaving your child behind.

My week-long stay in the hospital hotel room was over. We had rolled the standard grey cart to the door and loaded all of our things on it: suitcases, diaper bag, pillows, everything we brought but never used. We did what every new parent does on the day they head home, except we didn’t have a baby with us. No one prepares you. No one should have to.

Because we live an hour from the hospital, it was a long quiet ride home. I was like a washing machine of emotion. Swish left, sadness. Swish Right, put on the brave face. Swish left, adrenaline pounding. Swish Right, fear. Swish left, what am I doing? Swish right, what is happening? This has to be a dream. Swish left, this isn’t right. Swish right, definitely isn’t right. It was a back and forth churning for an hour. I didn’t know how to respond to the circumstance and by the time I reached home I had hit spin cycle. I was a washing machine, still and stoic, emotionless on the outside and a tornado of feelings on the inside wringing all of me out.

Brett didn’t want to leave me alone. “You going to be alright?” he asked. “Want me to take you to eat something?” I tearily shook my head and said something about having to head to town and check our post office box. “I don’t want you to just sit here and cry…. why don’t you call someone and ask them to lunch?” I reassured him I would be fine and gathered myself to head downtown as he drove back to work.

I made sure to go to the post office — since I said I was going I felt like I needed to. I had basically showered and thrown on some jeans and a sweatshirt — my former Alaskan uniform that I live to wear on the few days it is cold in the south — and crossed my fingers I wouldn’t run into anyone so I could arrive safely back home to spend my time with Netflix and some form of sugar and sadness.

There she was walking out of the post office as I got out of the car. A friend of mine walking towards me between the parked cars. “Are you just getting home?” she approached me and wrapped me in a hug. I exploded into tears. It was the end of my spin cycle — when all the turbulence subsides and a long, loud sigh is let out from the cold, hard, metal box. “A friend and I are going to lunch, just us two, why don’t you meet us over there in a few?” Before I knew it, I was nodding and driving myself to the local bakery for lunch.

No one tells you how you will feel. No one knows exactly what to say or do including you. We sat around the table and they asked me about the details of our hospital stay, we chatted about our older kids, about things happening in town. It wasn’t blissful, it wasn’t joyful, it was, however, restful. Just being allowed to be who I was in that moment, not expected to be cheerful or put on a brave face, was freeing. They were meeting my needs in that moment.

There’s a story in Acts 24 that details Paul going through a trial. In the midst of his trial, and the deciding of his fate he was imprisoned. Yet, Felix, the governor, had some compassion and “He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs (v. 23).” While Paul couldn’t see the end, or the way out of the waiting for his official verdict, he was given reprieve. His friends didn’t change his circumstances, they were just allowed to be there for him, providing for his needs. In the same way this little lunch in the back of a bakery opened and softened my heart a little. I felt comforted and was given a break from the sad and despairing feelings that had surrounded me through the hours of my day traveling the halls of the hospital, rarely leaving.

Jesus didn’t travel alone, He shared His time with disciples. Even in the garden of Gethsemane, in the darkest moment of His life leading up to His death, He asked three of the disciples to sit with Him in the moment He would spend praying and pleading with God to take the future chaos out of His story.

I knew I was in for a trial that would drag on. I knew my normal everyday routine was replaced with a new unexpected chaos. I knew the day my storm would be calmed to a whisper (Ps. 107:29) was a long way off, but as I arrived to my place of waiting, I was met with kindness and friends who knew that just being present with me was a need they could fill. We aren’t meant to do life alone. Connection and relationship are vital to surviving the chaos that presents itself. Those connections in turn provide a moment of rest and freedom as we wait for the verdict in our trial.