How funny that we met at Applebee's for lunch on this day in September, a month I'd devoted to eating an apple a day to celebrate the onset of fall as well as dabble in apple-based food choices for the nutritional benefit they contain. Little did I realize that our noon-time meal was destined to be a food date for my soul that contained nourishment beyond anything set before me on a plate.
My friend and I met several years ago in the bleachers of a basketball court, the sport itself relatively unimportant; we were simply moms sitting on the sidelines of our children's lives, supporting our kids in their current field of play. As such we had much to talk about, and I soon found that I was attending games for conversational reasons as much as to watch boys bouncing balls on wooden boards for an hour or so.
We're still at it. Five boys between us, and none of them living at home anymore, yet we meet regularly to catch up with each other as much as to discuss what our kids are doing. This last time our talk turned to the subject of siblings. Her mother and aunts she affectionately refers to in combination as “The Sisters”, their antics and attitudes a constant source of love and entertainment to the rest of the family, but a form of relationship that she has not experienced herself.
“You've never had a sister,” her mother lamented to her recently. To be honest, I don't think she's ever felt the loss, as she keeps busy being a sister to the brother she was born to and the many friends she was born again to minister to along the way.
The conversation, however, remained on my mind. Evidence of the love of my own younger sister fill my life and my home, from messages I find in my email in-box to postcards stuck on my fridge, to framed pictures on my windowsills and gifts stitched by her hand mounted on my walls. From our infancy on we've shared everything, from clothes to baths to bedrooms to toys. A built-in best friend, I didn't have to wait for her to come knocking on my door to see if I wanted to play. We grew up surrounded by the same relatives, neighbors and family friends. As such we speak a common language; there are memories we share, jokes we laugh at and heartbreaks we cry over together that nobody else on the planet can relate to with me the way she can.
That doesn't mean we were always close. After drifting apart somewhat in our high-school years we were simply distant daughters of the same father and mother for a number of years that followed. As the years passed away, however, we came together emotionally if not in physical distance, as the life experiences we shared with one another forged us once more into the best of friends that we remain today. Yet at any point in our relationship, regardless of how we were getting along, we were still sisters linked by blood, if not by choice.
Yet the opposite is true in the spiritual realm. It's by choice that we are born again into the kingdom of God and then allow Him to put us into sibling relationships with people of His choosing and linked by His Blood, friendships that perhaps lack the limited view of a shared past yet stretch beyond the boundaries of this earthly existence into the joyful expectation of an eternal future.
They are not without purpose, however, on this side of eternity, as to a large extent they are instrumental in getting us to the finish line with soul intact. There are simply some risks you are only willing to take with your sister by your side. In the earthly realm I laughingly submit coloring one's hair and taking a first bite of sushi as members of that group. Spiritually speaking, however, a walk of faith is easier when there's a hand around to pull you back up when you've fallen down, a smiling face in a world of frowns, a fellow traveler who speaks the same language of grace.
My friend and I finally finished our lunches, paid our bills and went on with days that went better because we had spent that time together in love and laughter. While our mealtime meetings always eventually come to an end, it's wonderful that the friendship between us does not.
Perhaps the “friend that sticks closer than a brother” mentioned in Proverbs is Jesus in the heart of a godly sister.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV)