More and more I find myself in awe of how people weave in and out of each other’s lives. I think of it as sacred weaving. I have heard it called divine appointments.
It is Monday morning and I am still in gratitude reflecting on the experience I had Friday night with two…no three…women whom I love dearly. The first woman is my long-time friend who knew me during my “bad girl” high school days. She is one of only two people I call when I am ugly crying and can’t make sense of anything about life. The second woman is a more recent friend. She is someone I love more every time I talk to her and learn more about her. The third is author/speaker Glennon Doyle Melton. I discovered her truth-telling during a time in my life when I needed to read exactly what she was writing. When I heard her TEDtalk, I decided to try her whole “just do the next right thing and that will take you all the way home” advice out.
Back to Friday night. So, a few weeks ago I was reading Glennon’s blog and she posted a list of upcoming speaking events. I thought I might get lucky and she might be speaking in Atlanta. I live about 1 (or 2 depending on traffic) hours from Atlanta so I would be willing to drive to see her speak. NO. She was speaking in MY LITTLE TOWN! 10 minutes down the road from me! What!?!? Divine appointment right there! Nothing comes to my town. This was really weird. And the event was not some $195 conference. It was $30. I registered myself immediately and then thought about these two friends. Their names just popped into my head. The three of us hadn’t been out together in about 2 years (we all have kids with special needs, work/school, etc.). They were down, so we all put Friday 1/23 6:30-9pm into our schedules as a girls night out.
Then Friday came. I had torn a tendon in my foot 5 days before and was in a stabilizer boot and on crutches. However, I’m going come hell or high water. One friend was having the day from hell at work and her boss made her stay late rather than her slipping out early as planned. She had to pick up her kids and get them home then get back to my house by 6 so that we could get to the event. It was raining cats and dogs. Of course there was a wreck between her house and my house (which are 10 minutes down the street from each other). I could hear in her voice that she was drained from a rough work week, 3 young kiddos screaming in the background, and now this. “It’s ok, we will be late if we have to”. She made it to my house come “day from hell” and high water. “I swear, this lady must be about to say something that will change my life, because the devil really doesn’t want me to make it there tonight,” she joked.
I had been talking with my other friend on the phone that day discussing some really difficult decisions she was facing and I could feel her heart breaking through the phone. The kind of heartbreak that I know all too well and I wish I didn’t. The kind of heartbreak that happens when you try and try to make it work, but it still isn’t working. The kind that brings judgment from the people you need to love and support you unconditionally when your heart is breaking. It hadn’t been a good week. For any of us. We all had reasons to cancel on each other. But we showed up with our various physical and emotional ailments. We just showed up. That’s half the battle in life right there.
From the outside, when we walked (hobbled) into the lobby, I was the only one who was visibly hurt and broken. These two friends are so beautiful that even though one had cried her makeup off in the car on the way to my house and one hadn’t had time for a shower or make-up in days, no one would have known they had the week from hell. I have noticed this with myself and with other women. If we have had a day or week from hell, we think it shows in our appearance. Good week: I’m alright. Bad week: I look like Shrek. I wanted to take a picture of the three of us, but they were horrified at the thought.
So, Glennon was speaking at a big church. When my friends and I walked in, we all looked at each other and commented that we felt a bit out of place. Jokes were made about it being a miracle the church wasn’t struck by lightening as we walked in. We laughed. We smelled like cigarettes. At least we had each other in this swarm of women we didn’t know. I think that as we looked around and saw hundreds of women, we saw their “outsides” and maybe assumed that because their “outsides” looked fashionable and put together with great care that their “insides” matched that image. We didn’t have scarves or nice boots or carefully styled “hairdos” (I tried but my hair fell into a stringy mess in the rain). We just showed up as we were. We found our seats and sat there waiting for Glennon to come out.
I wondered if maybe they wouldn’t like the event and think I had turned lame and boring spending my Friday nights at a church. Our last girls night out 2 years ago had been at a bar…Wild Wings…anyway… Glennon came out and started speaking. I looked over and my friends were laughing so hard. Whew, I felt relieved that, at the very least, my friends were smiling and laughing after a long, hellish week.
Then Glennon started getting into the kind of stuff that I was so hungry for back when I first read something she had written. The messy life stuff, the tough stuff, the BRUTIFUL stuff. Like this.
There were things I had wanted to say to my friend whose heart was breaking as we talked on the phone. I had once not so long ago been the one on the other end of the phone not knowing whether to stay or go. Whether I had tried hard enough or not. Whether I was right or wrong.
But then, this magical thing happened. Time slowed to kairos….which is exquisitely described by Glennon here.
Glennon was talking about the time when she and her husband separated due to very valid reasons (not just some “I’m not happy and I think I can find a hotter man” whimsy) and that some of the very people she needed to love her through this heartbreaking time were the ones who judged her and told her that marriage was more important than her healing, more important than her safety or misery. Many of these people were members of her church family. She said it so well “What if we are making an idol out of marriage? As if staying married is the only important thing?” Then she discussed the epiphany she had that whether they found redemption as a couple or apart, that separating and taking the time to heal, pray, seek change, go to counseling, etc. was what would bring them that redemption. No one should have to just decide to live a miserable or unsafe existence because they idolize marriage and fear the judgment of their church or family. I loved it when Glennon said something to the effect of: I know God loves me, I know God loves you, I just can’t believe His will is for us to suck it up and give up on healing and redemption and just hunker down in a miserable or scary marriage.
It was as if everyone else in that room faded out and only the three of us were sitting there with our hearts swelling with love and pain and life experience. My friend heard something no one else had said to her in the exact way she needed to hear it. I looked over and saw these big tears welling up in their eyes. I put my arm around my friend. Tears were streaming down my face, too. I had been there. Here we were, one friend who had been divorced for a while. One friend, sitting in between us, smack dab in the midst of that difficult decision and what life would even look like moving forward. And myself. Although now happily married, my husband and I had separated. Twice.
Looking back, I remember a girls night out when I was crying about my relationship over a pitcher of margaritas to friends who made me laugh even when I was a hot mess with mascara and eyeliner running all down my face. I am thankful they were there for me when I felt so alone in my brokenness and uncertainty. They didn’t presume to know the path I needed to take to find my redemption. They just loved me through it. Since then, some of those same friends have been divorced, separated, back together, remarried to someone new. This relationship and marriage stuff is so hard. It’s really messy. Love is the most brutiful (brutal and beautiful) thing I’ve ever experienced. No one should get up on a high horse and judge because you never know if you’ll get bucked off and need a friend to help you up out of the mud. There are things we can do to try and cultivate a great marriage, but I don’t have a crystal ball.
So, Glennon wrapped up and there was a time for us to come up and take pics with her, but my friends and I slipped out the back and went to a Thai restaurant instead. Each of us had gotten what we needed. With our spirits filled and overflowing, we sat and talked over curry and Pad Thai about the kind of really deep stuff that usually doesn’t come up on a “girls night out” like our bad habits, fears, insecurities, our love/hate relationship with our bodies and we laughed until they started flashing the lights at us to leave so they could close the restaurant.
We will keep winging it together through this brutiful life thankful for how favorite authors and bad weeks and a girls night out all weave together to make a beautiful piece of our tapestries.