Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why Sarah Laughed

There's a scene in almost every teen movie where the heroine ends up sobbing while hidden away in some really awkward place like a bathroom stall.

There she is, sitting on the toilet with gobs of mascara and tear stained toilet paper in her lap, bemoaning the mean girls or the boy who pulled a nasty prank on her or some other teenage drama, and the audience knows for a teenage girl, this the lowest of the low. There is nothing worse for her than those pitiful sobs in the middle of the girls' bathroom.

I know there's nothing worse because I've been there...

My last year of junior high was rough. I made a lot of poor decisions, isolating myself from the quality friends I had and building new "friendships" with people who were much less than quality.

Through the summer, thanks to awesome youth group leaders and a lot of support, I got back on track and began pulling myself together.

I was ready for a much better school year.

Arriving for the first day of high school, I was determined to drop my new friends--those bad influences--and rejoin my old group of friends. But I quickly discovered my old friends had been very hurt by a lot of my actions the previous year and weren't so keen about me rejoining their group.

So I found myself alone and friendless and spent my first lunch of high school sobbing on the toilet in the girls' bathroom with a pile of tear-stained toilet paper in my lap.

Not the beginning I had planned on.

For me friendships--the really great, quality ones--are unchanging.

Well, they do change, but they change in physical ways. Maybe I've moved or she's moved or life got busier or weddings took place or babies were born. But unless the person goes through a radical shift in personality and what I love about them isn't there anymore, the feeling I have for that particular friendship never changes.

This is especially true for my most intimate friendships--the friendships I have with people who know my stories inside and out, who stood by me in my ugly moments and cheered for me in my hardest moments, who celebrated with me in my joyous moments and mourned with me in my saddest moments. When I think of them, I think of them with all those experiences all rolled up and I experience the same intimacy and closeness even if its been months since we last spoke or if they live on one side of the world and I live on the other.

But in the last six months, a few conversations with friends have taken place which made me realize this is not true for everyone. And friendships I thought were really solid and would forever hold their specialness, don't hold it anymore.

It's been a hard pill to swallow and made me question a lot of my friendships. Are we still good friends even though we haven't talked in a while? Did me living in South Africa and being so far away from your story ruin our friendship? Is this thing still what it is in my heart?

I guess for a lot of people, life moves on and the timbre and the quality of a relationship changes with time and space. You don't write one email, make one phone call, drink one cup of coffee and pick everything up right back where you left off.

After last week's latest conversation on this subject, I walked away stunned and unable to process it. I felt like I had taken a hard blow and gotten the wind knocked out of me. What I loved dearly and had missed so much while I was abroad didn't exist anymore, and it left a hollow empty kind of place in me.

My other friend new it was gone. She'd been living it. She'd seen the shift in our little group of friends and new what we had at one point in time no longer existed.

She was kind and supportive and did her best to reassure me in the loss. But I felt like an idiot for not knowing, not accepting these relationships I loved so dearly were forever altered.

I don't think it was any one person's fault. Things change and we have to accept it. And I have to accept my absence for the last three years was a huge part of the change. But I hate it and I want to scream and punch things and throw a tantrum until everything is fixed and back to what it was.

But things change.

I know why Sarah laughs in Genesis 18 when God tells Abraham Sarah is going to have a baby.

She's old. Her biological clock ticked out a long time ago. And she gave up praying for a baby of her own decades earlier. She gave up when she gave her servant Hagar to her husband and said, Here, make a baby with her because my heart is worn out from the grief and I can't do this anymore.

Sarah's life was full of one change after another.

She left her home and everything she knew. She followed her husband who followed his God to a distant land. She had her name changed. She went back and forth from being Abraham's wife to his sister depending on the need of the situation they found themselves in.

And now, God was telling her of another upcoming change--motherhood.

Motherhood in her nineties.

Yes, Sarah laughed. Sarah laughed because it was all she could do. It was the only way she could express the emotion pent up in the years of hardship and loss and bitterness.

Sarah laughed, and I'm glad she laughed.

I'm glad she laughed because I need to laugh too on the days went it doesn't make sense to laugh. I need to laugh when what I thought was one thing turns out to be something totally different. I need to laugh when I have no idea what God has around the corner and what it might be terrifies me. I need to laugh like Sarah laughed or the empty feeling will spread and grow. I need to fill up the emptiness with a laugh.

On day two of high school, things got better, and eventually I had loads of friends again. And in the same way, I know I'll make new friends here in Lubbock and they'll be people who know the story of my journey back to Lubbock and my journey toward adopting Hannah. But I also know those friendships will be different from those that have changed.

And maybe it's okay. Maybe that's the way it is supposed to be.

I think laughing is the best thing I can do right now because right now so much seems so unfamiliar and impossible and so much is changing. And I need to believe others will eventually laugh with me as others laughed with Sarah when Isaac was born.

It's the best I can do right now. Laugh and appreciate those friendships for what they were and learn to love them for what they are now. Laugh and trust Godw for a crazy, wonderful, impossible thing coming around the corner.

I'm so glad Sarah laughed.

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