If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so, must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
The trees are swaying. The leaves that have begun to turn of red, orange, and gold colors are falling to the ground. The wind is blowing, and it sounds like the ocean when I used to place the seashells next to my ear. The ground is decorated with the newly fallen leaves. They are still crunchy when walked upon. It reminds me of when I was younger.
I lived in that big house across the street from her. My yard was so big. Megan and I would rake together huge piles of leaves every fall. We would rake from all four corners of that huge yard. Then when our pile was taller than we were, we would run as fast as we could and dive into the pile. Then we would laugh until our stomachs ached.
The yard seemed so big to us then. We imagined we were worlds away from reality. Yet, when I saw it again, years later, it was so much smaller. There was a new fence up, and my old tree swing that hung from the ancient Pecan tree in the back yard was gone. It was not the world I remembered. But at least the leaves still fell.
Those days playing in the leaves were some of the only happy times I had back then. Dysfunctional doesn’t quite capture the way my family functioned. It seemed to me that my mom and step-dad were always fighting. I never quite learned how to tune them out and just go to sleep. More often than not I would get pulled in. Either the fight was about me or I had to defend my mom.
I remember a few times that it got bad enough for police and hospitals. Even now that I am in college, I hate going home. I have nightmares weeks before I actually get there, and I don’t sleep during my whole visit. Somethings in life will never change. Megan understood though. Her family was just as crazy as mine was. Our refuge was in our friendship with each other.
I remember lots of times that we would sleep in our clubhouse above her garage cause neither one of us really wanted to go home. We were safer and happier on our own. It was one of the few things we had in common, but it was enough to build unbreakable bond. She was shy and an introvert when the group got larger than two. I have always been loud and social. She liked to read, and I loved soap operas. She has always been super smart, and I did okay in school. We were different, but we always balanced each other out. We just assumed that we were made for each other.
Today the familiarity of the fallen leaves seems to be the foundation in my unstable world. It is amazing how quickly our footing is lost, and then we are lost. Megan and I have been friends all our lives. I can still remember the day that I met her in first grade. We have done everything together since the first day of first grade. They haven’t always been the best things, but we have always trudged through them together.
We learned to read together, we had all our first crushes together, we survived junior high together, and our first kisses were critiqued together. There was no boundary to the world that we shared. We not only lived together, but we dreamt together. Some day we would find a path that led to our dream world; the world that only existed beneath piles of autumn leaves far away from both of our families.
Was it really six months ago that she called? I suppose so. I knew she had been struggling with alot lately. She had been really tired and quiet. Megan was never quiet with me. Something had to be wrong. She wouldn’t share though. She would just tell me that she had things on her mind, but that she was all right. And she looked all right. She didn’t look sad, just contemplative. She appeared to be living a million miles away, always distracted about something. I wasn’t prepared. I should have seen it coming. I should have pushed harder. After all, I had been her best friend forever.
“Hey Megan! I am glad you called. I have been meaning to ask where you have been hiding. For the last three weeks, you just disappeared after your last class. And where have you been on the weekends?”
“Well, yea, Sherri I have been wanting to talk to you too. I have just had too much stuff running around in my head. I had to sort it all out before I could explain it to you.”
“Are you okay babe?”
“Oh yea. I am great. In fact I have never been better in my life.”
“Okay, what’s his name? Where’s he from? What’s he look like?”
“Well funny that you should ask that. You are never gonna buy this one. He’s a tall, Jewish carpenter and his name is Jesus.”
“What? I think you’re classes are getting to you. You need a break babe. Either that or you have been watching too much late night t.v.”
“All right, Sherri, I have only asked this a few times in all the years that we have been friends, but I need you to just listen to me for a few minutes. Don’t make any comments or ask any questions until I’m completely done. I’m scared right now, and I need you to just listen or there is no way that I will be able to tell you all that I need to say.”
“Okay, I promise. But you know that you have no reason to be afraid. We have been friends forever. What could possibly come between us? Go ahead, I’m listening to your every word.”
“Well you know a couple of months ago things were getting pretty rough at home. It was the worst it had ever been with Mom and my beloved stepfather. My grades were dropping, I wasn’t eating, and I was just tired. I was tired of fighting, tired of being miserable, and tired of laying awake at night feeling empty. You know I have tried it all. I mean, I am great student. I have lots of friends. I have done the party scene. I have tried all that I know to try, but still there I was laying awake at night with that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.”
“You’re not pregnant are you? I didn’t even know there was anyone in your life right now? Are you okay? Why are you just now telling me?”
“No, I am not pregant. Just listen to me. So I did something crazy a couple of months ago. I prayed for probably the third time in my life, other than that I lay me down to sleep crap we used to try after we have done something bad. I prayed and told God if he really existed then I was willing to listen. But he had quite a bit to prove to me; after all he had been the one to put me in this messed up life and crappy family I certainly didn’t ask for or deserve. I told him I was pretty angry with him for all that I been through. Why hadn’t he stopped it if he was this all-powerful god? But I was desperate. I figured I had tried everything else why not try God.
“What? I am confused. Why would you even consider such a thing. Don’t you remember all those times we asked for lightening or something, or anything to just to prove to us that He was real? He never did anything before why did you think it would work this time?”
“Sherri, you promised. So nothing happened when I prayed. I think okay there has to be a Bible around my house somewhere. We live in America. I found an old tattered one at the top of my mom’s closet and tried to read it. It just made my head hurt. Now I was really confused. I tried the prayer thing and the Bible and neither had done anything for me. There was no light from heaven beaming through my house. There were no angels singing in my room. What next? Then I thought that maybe church would work. Now this isn’t all happening over night, but over the last month or so. So I asked someone in my communications class that I knew went to church if I could go with her.”
“Wait a minute! Slow down. You went to church and didn’t tell me? I could have gone with you or something. Why didn’t you tell me all this was going on? I don’t understand. You’ve never done anything like this before. We could have worked through all this together. Megan, what is really happening? Now I am the one who is scared.”
“Listen. Yes, I have been going to church on Wednesdays and Sundays for the last three weeks. I wanted to tell you, but I knew it wouldn’t make any sense. What if it turned out to just be a crock as we had always figured it was. I don’t know. I guess I was scared to tell you. But anyway, for the first few times I just sat there with m y arms crossed thinking that all those people were insane. I was just there to impress God and finish our little bargain. Then I started noticing that those people had what I was looking for. They didn’t stay awake all night feeling empty. So I started listening. And then last Wednesday it just hit me.”
“What hit you?”
“It hit me that I was a sinner, and that I needed to be forgiven. Suddenly all the hurt and pain didn’t matter anymore. I had hurt God just like my mom had hurt me. It hit me that Jesus died on a cross so that I wouldn’t have to be empty and alone. Don’t you see, Jesus offers us that world that we have dreamed about all our lives.”
“Whoa, whoa! You are crazy! What are you talking about? You have been going to church for a grand total of three weeks and all the sudden you are a theology major. I don’t even understand what the heck you are talking about. How do you even know what those churchy words mean? I am not a sinner. I have always been a good person. And if this Jesus guy died for me then someone needs to remind him that I didn’t ask him to. You know that. What is up with you anyway?”
“Come on Sher, just listen to me.”
“I did listen to you, and you didn’t make any sense. I don’t know where all this is coming from, but I think they are brain washing you or something. Maybe we should talk later when you feel better. And I don’t think you should go back any more. I mean we have never gone to church before, and we are doing okay.”
“Are we Sherri? Are we doing okay?”
“Look, I don’t know about you, but I am fine. You are the one who has been acting weird lately. If you wanna play goodie Miss Christian that’s fine, but leave me out of it okay. I don’t need your newfound conversion.”
“Sherri, that’s not fair.”
“Yea, well neither is the fact that you didn’t even tell me what was happening in your life until now. I thought I was your best friend.”
“You are. That is why I am trying to talk to you.”
“Yea, well, I am done talking. Have fun in church tomorrow.”
I had hung up the phone without even saying good-bye. I still cannot believe that it has been six months. We have talked a few times since, but it’s not the same. She is still going to church. I guess I thought it was just a phase she would pass through, but now I think it might be real.
She keeps asking me to come with her and at least give God a chance. I told her I did, at my birth. He didn’t seem to do a very good job with my life at that point, so I wasn’t about to try again.
She asked me last week if I would at least read something. I told her sure, what could it hurt. So here I am in the park today reading stuff that makes my head hurt. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why doesn’t this guy Jesus just talk plainly? He always has to speak in riddles. I tried to understand. I did what she asked. I think I am just trying to do anything to save our friendship at this point.
Our lives are so different now. We hardly talk, and when we do, it’s awkward. She hangs out with all her new Christian friends, and I feel uncomfortable around them. I cannot believe that we have been friends for fifteen years, and this is it. We have survived heartbreaks, fights, moves, puberty, you name it. Now she decides to become a Christian and our friendship is suddenly no longer valid. It is the only thing we have ever not done together.
Her whole life has changed. She hasn’t been to a party in months, and she is always so happy. I am lonely. I feel as if part of me is somehow missing. I shared everything with Meg. I am scared. I can’t talk to her anymore. I am afraid she will just preach to me, or worse, look down on me. She was the only person who ever believed in me. I just don't think that I could handle it if she thought I was rotten and no good like my mother. I am glad that she has found a new best friend, but what about me.
“that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” What exactly am I supposed to believe. I believe that Jesus was a real person. But how can I not perish? Everybody has to die. It is just one of those guarantees of life. What is eternal life? I have no desire to live forever. How did Megan comprehend all this in such a short amount of time? Maybe this Christianity thing isn’t for me. I think she has always been smarter than I have. Maybe that’s how she understood.
Everyone always said that Meg and I would grow apart. I guess it is time to accept that fact and go on. They have been telling us for years that nothing lasts forever. I just always thought our friendship would. I don’t know what to do. I don’t even think that she cares about me anymore. I am just a someone who used to be a part of her old life that she talks about. I am a part of the life that Christ saved her from. Her new life in Christ doesn’t include her old friends I guess. But I have to try.
“Hey Meg, it’s me.”
“Sherri, I am so glad you called. I have been meaning to talk to you, but life is just so busy these days. I am so busy with new things at church. I started helping out with this homeless ministry. It is really neat. You should come sometime. I think you would like it. How are things going in your life?”
“Things are good. Same as always. I wanted to call and apologize. I wanted to say I was sorry about how I reacted when you told me about the church thing. I was a jerk. It just took me by surprise. But I am really happy for you. You seem so happy these days, and you deserve that. I am glad for you.”
“Thanks Sher, that means a lot to me. I just want you to have the same joy. It’s possible. Why don’t you come to church with me on Wednesday?”
“I have really thought about it. I even read some of the things you asked me to read. I have decided though that being a Christian just isn’t for me. I think that some people are cut for the holy life, but I am not one of them. I am happy for you though. I think you are definitely one of those people. But hey, I am a good person and I believe in God. That’s enough for me. Christianity is great for you. But it’s not me. I am happy with the way life is. I have always survived before. But we can still be friends right?”
“Sherri, I wish you would listen to me. It’s not just for me; it’s for anybody. And it doesn’t matter whether or not you are a good person. There is so much more to it than that.”
“Meg, I tried. It didn’t fit. I just wanted to make sure that we would always be friends. I have to go now, okay?”
I hung up the phone that day and realized that I had lost my best friend forever. But I was happy that at least one of us made it to the world beneath the leave pile.