This weekend another special person in my life is here visiting me; another person who has taught me about Christ's love and character. Jesus reveals Himself as husband to those who trust in Him (John 3:29), but also as friend (John 15:15). When I was in high school, I prayed for a friend. Alice transferred to my high school a few months later. At one point, I felt estranged from most people in my peer group. There were nights when Alice would choose not to go to a party that I wasn't invited to, in order to spend time with me. There were other times when I estranged myself from my peers; I lied in order to cover up a secret I was ashamed of. Alice called me out on the lie and wanted me to confess. Then she hugged me and said she was still my friend.
After high school, I went to college almost a thousand miles away. I never moved back home. That means of the eight years we've been best friends, six of them have been long distance. Alice has committed the time to stay in touch with me; to know my story, even when it meant taking time away from her own to call me, come visit me, or write to me. This weekend, that has been the reality that has moved me the most; Alice knows my story, good and bad. She knows, for example, that I lied to her face in high school. She has witnessed my triumphs and my failures. And she has had to call me to repentance more than once.
One time, when Alice was studying abroad, she said to me, "It's such a gift when someone knows all your dark secrets and still loves you anyway." Alice knows me, and she has seen my dark secrets firsthand. But she hasn't abandoned me. She has witnessed me struggle for years with insecurity and rebellion, but she hasn't shamed me. Like the lie in high school, she hasn't coddled me or condoned all of my behavior. But like Jesus when he encountered the woman caught in adultery, a "worst of sinners" in the ancient world, she protected me from my accusers and helped to restore me. This weekend during Alice's visit, I feel restored. But I know that she loved me and was willing to sacrifice for me when I was still picking up the pieces.
In a way, that is what it's like to know Jesus. It's to be fully known-- good and bad. It's to know He sees my darkest secrets and most shameful experiences. It is not to hear Him coddle or condone them. But it is to experience His protective arms around me while He receives the stones my accusers had aimed at me. It is to hear Him say, "I love you and am committed to relationship with you now, not in ten years when you've got it all together."
I'm thankful for a God who knows my story and who stands in the gap that I've created in order to transform it. And I'm thankful for a God who gave me a friend like Alice to help me understand what that looks like.