That moment when everything changed in the blink of an eye: Brooke told me she was transferring colleges.
I don’t remember there being conflict before that. She was probably more quiet than usual, but that’s because she was busy praying and making plans and not sharing them because she knew that I would shoot them down. And this wouldn’t be a slow, gliding arrow kind of shooting. This would be a firearm, rapid fire, blood left on the pavement, massacre type of shooting.
“I don’t understand why you never told me or let me in on the decision process,” I said. Actually, I yelled and probably in far-worse words than what I can put on this page.
Best friends expect to be part of big decisions. Yes, true. But really? She was smart. Why would I have supported her decision to leave the school where we were placed on the same floor of a dorm our first years and where I did that awkward thing where you prop your door open and wait for her to walk by so that you can just so happen to leave at the same time because she looked like the perfect friend, and where we had already picked out our luxurious dorm room down the hall for the next year? Her junior year, my senior year. They voted me vice president of our sorority, so that meant we got second pick of our room. The plan was to have the best year ever.
I was selfishly stubborn and she was safe to me and I didn’t know Jesus and I had this habit of clinging to relationships. In this book my dad gave me called Perfect Daughters, they call it “traumatic bonding.” I developed a need for “unhealthy bonding styles,” according to the experts, and I had done it with boyfriends since I was 15 and she was just another victim at the time.
The book says that I am also “easily triggered.” Well, that’s an understatement. We were packing up our stuff to move back home for the summer. I remember her quilted bedspread that was so different from everyone else’s and she loved it and I loved that she loved it. There was her desk where she would eat pomegranates and pick out the seeds, or whatever you do with pomegranates; they were her favorite, but that was one thing I never followed her on. It was the dorm room style wooden desk with a fluorescent overhead light that you switch on and it takes about three seconds to brighten before it does this obnoxious buzzing noise that never goes away. There she would sit on Skype talking to Brian in Arkansas while she flipped her Bible in her earthy toned Vera Bradley case as they studied passages together. So weird, and I didn’t get it at all.
He was great…and I didn’t like him. Not because of him and who he was as a person. No, I certainly never gave him a chance, so I didn’t really even know him as a person. I hated him because I could see her slipping away.
In that moment where everything changed in the blink of an eye, her back was to me, her bed lifted high on Ikea bed lifts (the set of four that everyone had so that you could cram as much as possible underneath your bed, only to forget it was under there and discover the emergency Ramen Noodles in moments like this where you were packing up at the end of the semester) and as she folded something, she said, “I’m transferring next year and I’m not coming back.”
I don’t remember listening to her at all. I heard abandoning you and yelled a few four-letter words and tacked on, “This is all because of him,” but she said that it had nothing to do with him. She wanted more out of life than pre-game parties and Barbie-themed socials. Breaking rules and dodging authority wasn’t on her agenda anymore. She wanted more.
I told her she was throwing everything away (along with so many other hurtful things). In all reality, she was throwing it all away. And thank God she did. It took me about two years to realize what she felt when she went to the hallway feeling more alone than ever before, yet protected and comforted by an invisible God. She ran to God in the hallway and I ran to my boyfriend’s dorm room upstairs.
He was my safe place too, at the time. He listened and reassured me that I was right, she was throwing it all away for a guy and she would learn that you can’t put everything in one basket. He nodded and elaborated in all the right places as I cried and yelled, and kicked and screamed just like that time I wanted a pink Power Ranger doll in the store and my mom wouldn’t buy it for me.
Well, she’s now married to this man that she transferred for and gave it all up for, and that guy—the one who said she would learn and that I was beautiful and that he couldn’t wait for our forever—dumped me on a front porch one random day in September.
She invited me to her wedding and I sat in the back row, barely making the invite list after we once dreamed of being each other’s maid-of-honors and pinning something-borroweds and something-blues on our big days. I was still with the front porch guy at the time, as this was before he dropped the front porch bomb, and we smiled as he still reassured me that she would learn a lesson someday.
Then came the front porch bomb and it took him leaving me in my own puddle in the corner of my room to understand that moment Brooke had in the hallway where she felt so alone, yet God was holding her and he was all that she had to lean on.
Brooke knows all of this now, but really when I yelled hurtful things, I meant to say, “Please don’t leave me. Everyone does and I can’t count on anything and I need a person to be my everything because that is my release to numb the pain of life.” My world was not orderly and I depended on relationships to escape and control…and survive.
Brooke, when I was stuck in that puddle and puking over the toilet, because life was so out of my control and not going according to any of my plans, you came and taught me grace and forgiveness.
You pulled me out of my puddle and I got on a plane (and then another little plane with one-seat rows that you walked outside to get on) and I came to see you in the boondocks of Arkansas. It was there that we made our shields of faith from Beth Moore’s Believing God study, the first of many studies that changed our worlds. “God is who he says he is; God can do what he says he can do; I am who God says I am; I can do all things through Christ; God’s word is alive and active in me.” Man, those concepts were so foreign to me. But what a journey of Skyping together, crying together, laughing together, as we wrestled through forgiveness one piece at a time.
I could feel safe in a healthy way. We had other people in our own lives and I wasn’t dependent on her or one human to fill my cup of joy.
As I am writing this, I am wrapped and cozy in a handmade, woven blanket that Brooke just gave me for Christmas. She literally probably spent hours on hours, days on days making this blanket. I asked her how long it took her and she said, “You don’t want to know.” It is huge, soft, cuddly, warm. It is perfect. Its creamy color reminds me that my past is washed white as snow.
In my stubborn walk of faith where I am realizing that I will need to remember and choose to believe every single day, and where I will fight the Perfect Daughter Syndrome of going from 0 to 10 in emotions for no reason and feeling chronically hopeless, I look at this woven blanket and see it stitched with grace and forgiveness over and over and over.
And she has learned this stitch from her godly husband. This same man that I hated and blamed for taking my best friend and ruining her life (but really selfishly ruining mine), he spent hours and hours making a handmade frame for an old map of the nation’s capital that Brooke and I found at a vintage shop, but I couldn’t afford to custom frame. He picked out the wood, bought new tools just to make it, and framed it beautifully for my birthday present. This was an act of love, this wooden frame ingrained with grace and forgiveness.
I am so undeserving of these gifts and their love. The words that I yelled and the words that I typed and the bitterness that I harbored in my heart and dragged with me in a pile of ashes are nothing worthy of forgiveness. Yet they love me unconditionally. Wrapped in this blanket and gazing at this framed map, I realize they are the reason I choose to believe in Jesus today.
Why should I stay on this path that many tell me is restricting and just a phase that I will grow out of and just part of my “quest to find myself” in my twenties? Why? Because of the blanket and the frame and all that they show me about Christ’s love. I hope that one day I read this again and I still have the blanket and the frame and I choose to believe in his endless love, and not because “this is a phase.”
Jesus saved me from my puddle when my life was stuck in a slimy pit. He is steady and reliable and never changing in a way that I’ve never had before. I don’t have to fear anything. He waits for me to mess up and forgives me. I don’t have to do anything to earn his love. His power is made perfect in my weakness. This isn’t my phase of another temporary crutch. When I feel abandoned, I have this habit of being reckless. Now, all I pray for is a habit of reckless abandon for Jesus, the one who rescued me from my puddle.
Just like Brooke and Brian, he reminds me of my beauty and my worth, just as I was made and without a crutch, and he builds and weaves my life with endless grace and forgiveness. In the blink of an eye, everything changed.
But by the grace of God I am what I am… -1 Corinthians 15:10