A friend who sticks closer than a sister

It’s funny the statements we remember. It was a junior high slumber party and some of us were just getting to know each other after coming from various elementary schools. It was the era of Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” Someone brought up the question “If you knew you were going to die soon, would you go ahead and do ‘it’ before you got married just so you wouldn’t die without the experience?” The only answer I remember was that a new friend, Katy, said she would not because God would not want her to.

Of course, there might be those who would judge her parents as indoctrinating her in “fundamentalist” ways or placing unhealthy expectations or burdens on her. To the contrary, Katy’s family is one of the finest I know. Mr. Beall was the loudest cheerleader on the sidelines at almost all of the Annapolis High women’s lacrosse and field hockey games.  With his booming voice he led the congregational singing at Sunday night worship where I later attended church. He and his wife had a lovely home on gorgeous property and opened its doors to 40+ students on Friday nights after football games for 5th Quarter and to midshipmen and a college fellowship. (Mr. Beall was a math professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and later a mathematical analyst.) Brides and grooms desiring a scenic outdoor wedding were welcomed to use their place. The way the family studied the Bible was thorough and thoughtful. Katy’s grandmother who lived with them had a big impact on me as I considered what it meant to grow in faith.

Through junior high and high school my friendship with Katy deepened. Because of my introduction to her and her church, I began to study the Bible intently. Knowing Katy changed my life. It also changed the life of Judi, her friend since elementary school. The three of us were pals in junior high but in high school we encouraged and challenged each other in spiritual growth and in dealing with all that adolescence involved. There was never any drama, phoniness or lack of trust.

When it was time to go off to college I was sad to leave them and a few other good youth group friends. My mother told me that, although we would probably maintain our relationships, life would bring changes and I likely would meet others who would become even better friends. That didn’t happen. I have been fortunate to have several deep Christian friendships in the places we have lived but these two high school friends are just as important. Katy was my maid of honor and Judi my matron of honor. Living far away and raising children resulted in less interaction but we always got together on my trips home. On several occasions I have relied on them for wise counsel or prayer support.

Even amongst the twelve disciples Jesus had a few who were the closest to him. I thank God that our daughter has what she calls her “sister in Christ” and pray that she will get to know one or two more in college. Never underestimate the influence that you could have on someone, even if you’re in middle school. There might be a person out there who needs to connect with a faithful Christian and you just might be that friend.

“A person of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother or sister.” (Proverbs 18:24)

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