Friday, June 20, 2014

One confession, two conversations, one story of God’s grace


In my guest blogger series, I've asked some of my favorite bloggers to discuss one of the questions found at the end of my book, When Others Shuddered: Eight Women Who Refused to Give Up. Today's question is about Amanda Berry Smith. Thank you to these fellow writers for participating! Enjoy this essay from my beautiful and talented friend, writer and blogger, Amanda Cleary Eastep. 

Amanda Smith felt completely alone following the death of her baby, Will. At that very moment, God sent a friend to give her needed money. Why are women’s friendships so crucial? How have friends ministered to you in times of need?

There seems to be something noble about dealing with loss when something is taken from you that you have no control over, like your health or a loved one. All hearts mourn with you. Friends surround and uphold you; they offer comfort, home-cooked meals, and fundraisers. And that is as it should be.

But when loss is the consequence of our failure, of divorce, which tends to expose your most private life as if it were a 15-year-old mattress dragged to the curb, the reactions of friends can vary from pity to rejection. Yet your truest friends are the ones who listen while you spill your guts and who pull tissues out of nowhere; who pick up your kids with one hand and deliver a casserole with the other; and who see your beauty at your most ugly and remind you who you are beneath the tarnish.

Amanda Smith’s story of the tragic loss of her child didn’t inspire me because I identified with this noble woman, who, granted, may have had her faults and failures. Rather, it humbled me, because I was reminded that even at my most un-noble, God provided me with the help of friends. And, more important, God considers me as much a daughter of a King as he did Amanda Smith.

From amidst the memories of my long divorce and its arguments, custody hearings, and counseling sessions, two encounters with my dearest friends stick in my mind, because these women reminded me who I still was in God’s eyes and in theirs.

Conversation #1

Carrie was my next-door neighbor and quickly became a best friend. She is outspoken, animated, and fierce. If she were an animal, she’d be a lioness. I’m something of a border collie, friendly, energetic, herder of children and dirty clothes.

I once believed that if she had still lived next door during the final years of my marital decline, she would have read the pain between the lines on my brow, would have smelled the spoiling relationship. But she moved away, and my parents bought her house for my grandmother, who died within days of the closing. And so the little house sat empty, reminding me of the absence of two of the people I loved most.

A few years later, Carrie and I would find ourselves sitting together as she listened to my Jerry Springer-scripted marriage experience--minus any mullets or on-stage fist fights. She patiently waited until I stopped crying and was sure I wouldn’t vomit then stated in her usual because-I-said-so voice, “This doesn’t define you.”

In my current state of mind, this came as a revelation. The previous months, especially, had seemed to alter all things...my dreams, my relationships--especially with God--and my self-worth. But she was right. My mistakes and those of my husband did not define who I was at the core. God defines who I am. He tells me, “You are my daughter. You are forgiven. You are clean. You are loved.”

Carrie gifted me this reminder of grace. And a hug and tissues.

Conversation #2

I was visiting my former roommate, Carla, who first met me at our Nazarene college wearing a calico vest and skirt her mother had sewn for the freshmen welcome orientation. She was now a former missionary to Taiwan with five children; the sixth child I would eventually help the midwife weigh late one summer night.

During our visit, there was a rare moment of peace as she worked in the kitchen, and I sat beside the children’s craft table, gazing over the complex but uncomplicated drawings pinned to the wall and strewn about like too many happy thoughts to count.

I imagined at that point in my life--the divorce final, “settled” at my parents’ home, having shared my experience with a trusted and devastated few--that I was beyond crying. But the words seemed to carry their own sorrow with them, and I paused to collect my emotions.

Carla hadn’t asked me to explain what had happened, but I felt the need to confess my failures. I swallowed hard and began again, but Carla interrupted. “Mandy, you don’t have to tell me.”

This wasn’t a “hey, I should probably extend some grace here or at least offer to.” This was true grace as she added these simple and liberating words: “It doesn’t matter.”

Another gift given; this one wrapped in Proverbs 19:11b: “It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

Others in my life had also offered up tears and hugs, support and encouragement, but these two friends represented all of that love and the way the hand of God moves in those moments of greatest need. These friends were bookends of grace on my sad story.

Grace and me and grace.

Amanda Cleary Eastep is  a writer, Christian, mother and wife here for a purpose--which alternates between that purpose being perfectly obvious and being perfectly oblivious to it. The business marketing side of Amanda posts at Word Ninja, and the slightly more interesting side shares her heart at Namasteawhile.

Post a Comment