So 2 years ago I stalked a chick I’d never met into a toilet which isn’t my usual behaviour, but considering how well it went I’d probably do it again. I have spent just shy of 100 Sundays with her since that inauspicious faux-casual ‘hi’ near the hand basins, and today was the first of all the ones we won’t spend together, which is all of the rest of them.
That might sound overly dramatic – she has changed churches, not universes – but “there are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other”. We didn’t wrestle any actual trolls in our time, but you’d better believe her absence on this ordinary Sunday was keenly felt.
Her absence is the absence of a driving buddy, a soother in a thousand traffic jams. The absence of a sweeping comrade, a coffee tester, a pencil sharpening queen. And that list is selfish, her reality far more than what she was to me. Yet of all the ways she loved people at church – and there were untold numbers of them – I will miss most the things I got used to seeing. And I can’t write it, it turns out. Mentioning the small things makes it seem like that’s what she was, small, instead of the largest collection of the most profound things, all cobbled together, one enormous beating heart.
But also my Sunday night Vietnamese co-consumer, listener to a thousand over-analyses, laugher at a million bad jokes. We have swum a hundred swims, house-sat, chicken-sat, cat-sat. We have shopped and cooked and cut out – oh my the cutting out. We have crafted together and written lists together and fought to be heard and fought to be friends again. This friendship has been built one Lebanese lady-finger at a time, one fish sighting, one ice-cream truck, one sigh and smile at the end of another Sunday.
When everything about Clovelly felt strange, she was there. And, sweet irony, now that it is the safest home, she is gone. And she is gone, as she explained through tears, because there are others who need to hear about Jesus, and she wants to know if she can tell them.
Last Sunday, people asked the question. Can’t someone else do it? And there are so many reasons why where she wants to go and what she wants to do are the most dangerous she could. It doesn’t make sense, to people weighing up the cost. It feels like she’s willing to give up everything. But, softly whispered, she follows someone who did just that, for her.
And this week I have been struck anew by the way she walks, in the footsteps of her Saviour. And she does it, not because she is some paragon of perfect, but because through her broken vessel the light of the gospel so clearly shines.
When others left, I cried through my Bible reading, but last week I was dry-eyed. So much of that is that it hasn’t hit me, and only 100 Sundays without to juxtapose the with, will change that. But also, it’s profoundly clear to me that she knows the voice of her Saviour, who knows her by name. As I write, she is meeting people and smiling and probably wondering if she’s done the right thing. Oh my Meredith-friend, take heart, keep walking. And know that people you meet in bathrooms today may soon be super thankful, in ways they can’t express, to have met you there 🙂