After driving 17 hours from Kansas City (“when you go an hour out of the way,” Brandie explained) and around Pennsylvania for several days, Bret and Brandie pulled up in their Neon that was just too easy to personify as being utterly exhausted. They spent a few hours inspiring us; low maintenance, refreshing, “I like how my heart feels around them” types. Both of them spoke with the Word of God flittering in and out of their sentences as we sat on the back patio eating soup, as Vivienne announced that she wanted to be “Nature Girl”, as time ticked by and we loaded the dishwasher at the end of evening. It’s easy to love these types of friendships that seem to pick up so easily and drop off so easily; no one gets hurt, no one demands, “hey, why haven’t you called in a day?!” But I’m beginning to realize that these are the very friendships that I want – need – as a constant part of my life. Otherwise, my relationship with them can be like summercamp: a fabulous high that dies off as soon as the bags are unpacked. And the good things that happen amount to a couple of pages in a photo album instead of a dense, healthy relationship that surrounds us like air.
I think about Paul’s encouragement in Hebrews 12, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…” and I get hung up on that “seeing we are also” phrase. “Really?” I wonder to myself. Is this an automatic freebie or is Paul insinuating that, if we want to run after – and like – Jesus, we better have pro-actively plunked ourselves down in the middle of this cloud?
Mysteriously, we are surrounded by the saints of Hebrews 11 and others, free to find encouragement in their stories, so that we can be faithful, too. What a luxury it is, too, to be surrounded by living friends who are also witnesses of what life can be like when we obey Jesus Christ. This is far too great a gift to be regarded as Summercamp see-ya-when-I-see-ya relationships. I’ve got a cloud to get into.
As for our friendship with Bret and Brandie, I’ve decided to go back to Kansas City with them. Not in their little Neon, but through prayer, phone calls, their blog and website. Until now, I’ve resisted blogs and web stuff (obnoxiously mocking my sister’s “myface” participation, etc.), but I’m realizing that it is one way to surround myself with friends like Bret and Brandie who are laying aside every weight in order to run towards a worthy goal, even if they’re doing it 17 hours away.