“Find the most beautiful anniversary card you can and send it to Marilyn as a token of My love for you.”
“But Lord,” I sputtered, “you don’t understand. Send Marilyn a card after what she did to me? Are you kidding?”
His velvet steel reply was unequivocal, soft but unbending: “I’m not kidding. And while you’re at it, send Sean a birthday card, too.”
Wham. Double wham. Marilyn acquired the dubious distinction of “former friend” over a year ago. Now God was asking me to do something for her that Marilyn hadn’t done for me. This latest oversight capped a year-long series of snubs, slights and woundings of varying degrees that eventually resulted in a crumpled, dead relationship.
Marilyn and I exchanged cards, gifts, time and attention to mark seasonal and special occasions for years. It was our way of saying, “You’re special. I care about you.” I thought Marilyn and I were on the same page until my November birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all came and went unnoticed by Marilyn – for no discernible reason. Ditto Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and my May anniversary. It was a sizeable shift in our relationship that was never explained. What changed? Was Marilyn sending me a message?
When asked, Marilyn mortared a high, thick wall of defensiveness and busyness: “I don’t even have time to send cards to my own family.” It was a small thing to Marilyn, a dust mote on the canvas of our relationship. To me, however, it was The Last Straw. I tried to tell her. More than once. Marilyn never had time to listen.
Soul-clarifying communication, consistent contact and expressions of caring are my Love Language. I’ve never gotten the hang of “drive by” friendships. You know -- someone occasionally flutters a hand at you out the car window and considers that “being friends.” I don’t. Never have. So when Marilyn slid out of my life with “too busy” and “otherwise engaged,” I felt as lost as an F flat in the key of A. Even worse was her icy indifference, a dissonance that continued unabated even after I confronted her on it. They say that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but apathy. Truer words were never spoken when it came to Marilyn and me.
Bewildered and baffled, I watched helplessly as the relationship crumbled despite my best efforts to shore it up. Eventually, I was as burned out as prairie grass after a lightning strike. Continued unresponsiveness and self-imposed isolation on Marilyn’s part hauled me to the heart-wrenching conclusion that our friendship was over. I finally gave up, let her go. I don’t think Marilyn ever noticed. She was perennially “too busy,” too buried in “doing ministry” to remember my birthday or anniversary—or my phone number, address, or email. Hence, when Marilyn’s anniversary rolled around, I resolved to let it go by unsung—a reprise of her tune. But Someone had another song in mind.
The sense of loss was still raw when I heard His lyrics. So much so that I couldn’t respond. Everything inside me rebelled. Paralyzed, my frayed heart was too Lilliputian to manifest the kind of love and grace this seemingly small act required. So He enlarged my heart, pouring out His love for me in a million different tunes--until my “heart reservoir” overflowed with Him. The result? I couldn’t refuse His command to “leak” His love onto Marilyn.
Both cards and a gift went in the mail. My hands shook as I dropped them into the blue postal box. Reaching out like this, taking a risk this big when I had been hurt so badly? What in the world am I doing? An Alaska-sized lump rose in my throat. This kind of vulnerability terrified me. What if they don’t respond? What if she blows me off again?
Marilyn never acknowledged card or gift. I was disappointed but not devastated. Why? Because somewhere in the process of trusting obedience to a divine imperative I didn’t understand, Jesus enlarged my heart. True, the relational spark I hoped my gesture might ignite never materialized. But I did what He asked me to do. I left the rest with Him.
Slowly and imperfectly, I’m learning that the hole in my heart left by the loss of a cherished friendship drives me closer to the only One who can fill and satisfy my soul. And when the Lord Jesus pours His love into me, stretching me beyond the limits of my small, weak self, the music He makes can be as breathtaking and as powerful as a Puccini aria. He’s slowly—sometimes painfully--replacing my soul-shrinking solo with soaking splashes of Himself, orchestrating a duet as vast and immense as His endless, unfathomable Love for both me and Marilyn.