Natalie is the one who welcomed me to Uganda and taught me so much of how to survive (and thrive!!) in Africa. Even before I ever arrived, she made time to Skype me and give me packing tips (mostly what NOT to waste my luggage space on…thanks, Nat! :) ) She was with me during my first market experience, and the first one to give me tips on how to drive there. She pointed me to all the random places I could find things I was missing from the States (like dvd from the movie store, canned tomatoes, cheese, and even oreos!) She’s been a constant well of information and guidance….and in more than just food items :) :)
|Nat and I during my first year|
|Overlooking Mbale during one of our adventures :)|
We’ve walked through fire together, and through supernatural grace, pushed through situations that should have driven us apart. You know those friendships that you had to fight for to keep? They’re golden. And because of Jesus’s extraordinary favor, we have one of those friendships.
Like most friendships, there have been times we’ve been closer than others…and times that I’m just more willing to let her in than others. Sometimes that’s due to the stress and craziness of life hampering my emotional capacity to engage, and other times it’s just laziness. Many times its been fear based since her opinion means the world to me, and many times I’ve believed the lie that admitting to my real heart struggles will make her love me less.
The truth is, establishing genuine, deep friendships with anyone requires a ton of intentionality and bravery. For me, living in a situation where people are constantly coming and going gives an additional factor to the challenge of establishing strong friendships. The luxury of living near close friends for years, and even decades, is one I have often envied many of those in my home town. Investing in friendship is always a choice, but sometimes that choice doesn’t seem worth the risk when I know the woman (precious and amazing though she might be!) might not be around for very long. It’s so tempting to keep things superficial and just not make the effort unless I think there’s a good chance that friend might stay for longer. Plus, the grief of saying goodbye to someone that has been that close is excruciating….and in Uganda everyone leaves. And who knows? Maybe one day the one leaving might be me. Only Jesus could really say.
I’ll be honest. I’m scared. I fight the fear daily that with my besties all leaving, I will be left without someone in Uganda willing to go deep with me. Vulnerability and raw honesty are some of the single most precious and elusive aspects of friendship that I both long for and fear. I know Jesus created us for community and connection. I know that interaction with other members of the body of Christ not only gives us the chance to minister to someone else, but also to grow together and be the iron that sharpens iron for each other. But the extent that we’re able to do that is usually dependent on how honest we’re willing to be with each other. And wow, is it hard to do!! Each moment of brutal transparency feels like an act of bravery that should be honored with a medal.
I’ve had those friendships in Uganda. I was extremely blessed with people who made it easy(er) to reach that level of friendship. But now they’re leaving my every-day life. We tell each other we’ll stay in touch, and it’s still possible to maintain long-distance friendships. But it’s hard. Things just aren’t the same as when you’re involved in each other’s every-day.
So I grieve the ending of a season. I’m here fighting to open my fists that are clenched around what was. And I’m fighting to believe and not just know that Jesus is big enough and good enough to not only maintain bonds across oceans, but also to provide new deep connections as well. I know that’s who He is, and I’ll keep fighting to believe it for myself.
I love you Nat. Thank you for your incredible investment into my life! Here’s to many more years of us talking, laughing, and pestering each other :)