Maybe it’s the long hours spent tilling foot by square foot of soil by hand, hours passed digging holes, planting seeds, watering juvenile sprouts, watching new life manifest.
Perhaps it’s in those now quiet afternoons spent quietly exploring as opposed to verbally communicating over a hot cup of tea and loaf of molasses oat banana bread.
Whatever the time is and where it has been found, after reading the following quote from Shauna Niequist’s book Cold Tangerines, I can’t help but think about hard friendships.
When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life.
True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken fragile parts of ourselves. We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our ability o be perceived as perfect. We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us. We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are, they’ll leave. But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives us. Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk. If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, then it is something else, but if it’s really love, really friendship, it’s a little scary around the edges.
My friend Beth and I became friends our freshmen year in college. She was a nursing student and illuminated wisdom of a woman whose commitment to the least of these was enough to make me want to sit at her feet and soak in her very next word. She gives an early morning glare that would send morning doves back to their beds and cover with fear of the unknown. She was also the friend who shared her initial dislike for Jake and concern for our early relationship. This was not the first time she trusted me with the truth and for her faith in what connects us as opposed to what separates us. To her, our friendship was stronger than her temporary concern for peace. Little Tomato’s birth coincided with the birth of her fourth child and Sweet Basil, with her fifth.
When Little Tomato was born and life began making steady tracks in unknown lands my closest friend, the woman whose friendship I had shared almost every single significant life event in tandem with went cold. Maybe it was my inability to communicate well for the season. Perhaps it was the both of us? For the first time in thirteen year experiencing different life stages without the companionship of one another. Regardless, we went crisp and our conversations turned casual. For years. Until she spoke truth into our cavernous relationship and the once empty liner began filling up once more. The intimacy of our past is no longer compromised by the day to day differences of our present. The maid of honor in our wedding, our vow to love and support one another always, unbending.
I remember driving back from Glen Ellyn into the city. It was hot, I was pregnant with Little Tomato and the only craving I could muster to satisfy in the thick Chicago heat was a large Dunkin’ Donuts decaf iced coffee, cream only, purchased between 3 – 5 pm for a measly, life-giving one dollar. Rachel shared her feelings of loss in our frienship over the phone as I drove home one evening. I shared my anxiety in feeling pressure to preform, live up to expectations in our friendship that was so easy in the every day to now so difficult with new distance. I attempted to weasel my way out of our close accountability with the scapegoat, “maybe our friendship was just a season.” We were both tired and as easy as it could have been to say good-bye and take up her life out East without a second thought to our relationship hundreds of miles West, she wouldn’t take my token out and risked calling my bull-shit. Her willingness to dare greatly and invest in us was an honor to experience and a gift to sincerely hold and behold.
Rebecca & I agree, we have very little in common outside of our common belief that we are loved and worthy of loving. She shares she first fell in love with me the evening I invited her over to our pink apartment after she was stood-up by a guy most certainly worth less than a ounce of brick. I first fell in love with her the moment I heard her voice that welcomed my uncertainty and awkwardness and vulnerability and told me it was good. I was good. This woman. She is strong. So strong that her presence, after all these years, still makes me uncomfortable at times. Still, I love her and I love her deeply. It’s written all over of years of dialogue, conversations, disagreements, heartbreaks. She is beautiful, this woman, my friend. Passionate and locked-in to a belief that God is love and there is nothing we can do to compromise that.
When she knocked on my garden basement apartment window eleven years back, I knew it was time to end this charade. I had done everything I knew how to do in order to ditch our relationship. There were times it felt too toxic and I simply was not in a place where I could take in the fumes any longer. Still, she kept knocking when I wouldn’t answer my phone. She continued to make plans for me when I said my calender was full. She stopped by to meet other friends when I told her my time was already committed. She not only broke social boundaries but destroyed them in pursuit and promise of our friendship. We miscommunicated, yelled, questioned and turned away from the madness our relationship had become at times. Then she asked me to stand in her wedding, later to move in with her and her husband and not long after, to care and pray for her oldest son as his Godmother. In so many ways, she has become who I want to be.
These friendships are sacred.
These women are important.
Seasons in their company were difficult, intimidating, life-giving, intimate and beautiful.
And in those lingering light filled evenings after the kids have both fallen asleep and the creeping dark duet of bats circle our roof enjoying their midday toast and tea, pulling last weeds with the safety light from my bicycle I’ve hardly touched in two years, I can’t stop thinking of the impact each of them have made in this life I navigate.
Together we have given up what we have been lead to believe, that friendships are always convenient and always enjoyable and always easy.
Together we have given up our needs to save face and control how we think of one another and instead of defaulting to easy judgments and apparent avoidance we risk, we communicate and we love.
Because of these friendships, this love that speaks truth, hopes for intimacy, dares great, speaks honestly and risks everything I have been shown the goodness of God. I have taken up the believe that hard relationships is the divine of our everyday life.
In honor of these friendships, these life-giving women, is a recipe that has been shared between women, women who love molasses and women who love to do hard things.
Molasses Oat Banana Bread
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
2/3 c regular oat
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c sugar
1/4 c softened butter
1/3 c dark molasses
2 large eggs
1 c mashed bananas
1/3 c plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
Heat oven to 350.
Spoon flours, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, stirring with whisk.
Place sugar, butter, and molasses in a large bowl. Beat with mixer on medium until well blended, about one minute.
Add eggs one at a time beating well after each.
Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla. Beat until blended.
Add flour mixture and beat on low. Grease a bread pan and line with flaxseeds.
Bake for approximately 1 hour 5 minutes.
Cool on wire rack.
Enjoy a warm slice with a friend you have worked hard with. A friend who hasn’t given up on your relationship. A friend whom you have done the intimate work of life with, a friend who bring the divine into your everyday life.