Like Dorothy, I too have found myself desperately clicking my red heels together to go back home to my previous life. In 2016, a rare condition hijacked my body turning my life upside down. Unlike Dorothy, life with a chronic illness signified my life would never be the same.
Friends are one of God’s greatest gifts to us. We are relational people, not created to live in isolation. Perhaps this was on Paul’s mind when he wrote, “that you and I be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12).
Instead of being the one preparing the meals, I have been on the receiving end of meals, prayers, and visitations. Thrown into the world of chronic illness has taught me a few lessons on friendship.
Lesson 1: Being present is the true gift of friendship.
Job, struck down in the prime of his life, was not alone. His three friends came alongside him and sat with him for seven days before speaking the first word (Job 2:13). Their presence was more valuable than their words.
Illness and crisis is hard on everyone. Initially, some people will reach out, while others retreat afraid to make contact. The people that stand out the most are the people who show up. I’ve learned that being present is the best form of friendship.
Lesson 2: Friendship comes alongside
A friend is someone who will walk alongside you and not demand anything from you. So often, we want to fix other people’s problems and if their problem is too big, we feel overwhelmed by their need. God doesn’t call us to fix other peoples problems, but to walk with them.
Sarah Beckman describes in her new book, Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial, “The friend who loves their neighbor well in trial will continue to come alongside after the initial hardship is over” (page 60).
Lesson 3: Friends do without asking
Last week, I woke from an afternoon nap to find a sweet note attached to an even sweeter loaf of warm banana blueberry bread on my front porch. Once, when my husband was out of town, my neighbor mowed our grass and when it snowed, he plowed our driveway. Friends don’t wait to be asked, friends see a need and fill a need.
Lesson 4: Friends recognize, I’m still me
Finding my “new normal” is a phrase repeated by my neurologist and counselor. Finding normal is harder than it sounds. However, I appreciate friends who remember my hobbies and favorite activities and try to preserve glimpses of my old self.
Prior to my illness my friend Robin and I met weekly for sew therapy. Since then her family relocated and we participated in a small sewing swap activity via mail. While my sewing machine doesn’t hum as frequent as it once did, this sewing swap brought a smile to my heart. Glimpses of my old self-are also felt when friends stop by for afternoon coffee or inquire about my writing or my newest read.God doesn’t call us to fix other people's problems, but to walk with them @RedChairMoments Click To Tweet
My journey into the land of chronic illness has allowed me to see the needs of others with a heightened acuity. Being actively present alongside a friend in their journey is as valuable as the chicken noodle soup. I’ve learned that a true friend reaches out again and again.
~April Dawn White