Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Widow's Walking Friends

Do you remember the Bible story of Ruth and Naomi? They were two widows who were there for each other! God never intended for us to make this journey alone. We need a walking partner. Do you have a Ruth or Naomi in your life? Are you a Ruth or Naomi to another woman? Find one or more walking partners today.

You can have more than one walking partner. Several women came in and out of my life during the first couple years of widowhood. And they weren't the ones I expected---they weren't the ones with the "strong Christian" reputations. Those happily married "strong Christian" women had no idea what to do with me. They couldn't relate. (I think they were a little scared of me, like widowhood was contagious or something!)

The women I was surprised to find in my life were the broken ones who knew suffering and grief. How I thank God for them! They knew that I'd survive. They weren't afraid to handle me.

I'll spotlight two of them today because they each had the determination of Ruth and Naomi. They were each named Laura, so I couldn't call then anything but my two Laura's.

Walking partners provide mutual support. My first Laura literally was my walking partner. I'd known her for a few years, but a month or two after Bruce died we began walking together every morning. She had some horrible situations of her own to deal with, we were both almost blinded by the pain of our different circumstances, but we had each other. Committed to putting one step in front of the other, we walked off the days, desperate to get through the calendar and put a safe distance between our broken hearts and the day our lives had changed forever. Some days Laura was the leader, the encourager, the stronger one; on other days I supported her like carrying the wounded off the battlefield.

Study the book of Ruth; that's what Ruth and Naomi did for each other. Their every decision and every choice was for the other's best, but their love was unconditional and freely given.

Walking partners demonstrate uncommon courage. I met my other Laura shortly before Bruce died. I hardly knew her, but after Bruce's funeral, she began to draw me into her world of cystic fibrosis. She was almost 10 years younger than me, but a veteran survivor who had lost many friends to the disease. Since most people with cystic fibrosis died in their 20's at the time, Laura lived in constant diligence of her own condition. And WOW! DID SHE LIVE!

Laura grabbed life by the throat. With two kids from her first marriage, she was constantly on the go, racing to fill each day with activity and verve, like she was stocking up for weeks ahead when she couldn't get out of the hospital. She knew life was a short, precious and sacred trust. There was nothing she wouldn't try: she'd had a career, birthed two babies, gone through a divorce, been a single mom. And now in her new marriage-- which she saw as a merciful gift from God-- no diamond was too big, no beauty treatment too extreme, and no experience too embarrassing.

Yet, when she was in the hospital and one of her long-time cystic fibrosis friends was weakening and dying, it was Laura who would bathe them, bring homey touches to the hospital room, and tell the family what they needed to hear. When I was wringing my hands with worry and fear about the next steps to take in my life and the emotional cost, it was Laura who pushed me on with a sharp--"Why not? You've already lost everything!"

Seeing the grit and courage of my second Laura helped me understand Ruth and Naomi better. Once Ruth and Naomi started on their journey back to Bethlehem, it was no Sunday afternoon stroll. These two defenseless women walked about 50 miles through the same Judean wilderness where the shepherd David killed a lion and a bear. They slept under the stars every night, they carried everything they owned. When one or the other wanted to give up, I imagine a hard poke from the other urged them on with a stern logic: "You've already lost everything! Don't quit now!"

My second Laura walked me back into life. But a year later I was called to her deathbed and witnessed her departure to eternal life. Cradled in the arms of her weeping husband, her son and daughter clinging to her and cryng, "No, no, no . . ." Laura slipped away. Heaven will never be the same. Her funeral was a celebration as we imagined Laura hitting the streets of gold, twirling around the first angel she saw and asking, "Where'd you get your hair done?"

Have your found your walking partners yet? At first you might not recognize them. They might challenge your preconceived ideas of strength and godliness; but in Christ, when we are weak, He is strong inside of us. Don't overlook people who are gifts from God just because they're not wrapped in the paper you expected.

Here are some clues for recognizing the walking partner(s) God might match you up with:
Is she available?
Has she known or is currently experiencing suffering?
Does she know God?
Can your relationship be a mutually respectful give-and-take?

How to find and be a walking partner:
Ask God for wisdom to spot the women He has put in your life. His choices might surprise you! That's why you need to ask for wisdom.
You don't need to form any sort of pact or agreement with your walking partner. Just enjoy the friendship. You might not recognize their impact upon you until you look back on the friendship in retrospect.
Seek to encourage her and fill her up rather than analyze what you receive from her.
Now phone someone and ask her if she'd like to go for a walk.

I'd love to hear about your walking partner in the comments below, or use the comment box for any questions you have. May the Lord mark your path with good friends.
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3 comments:

  1. I have been privileged to have four “walking partners”—two in Rockford, Illinois and two here in Zionsville, Indiana.

    Colleen’s husband had brain cancer during the same period of time that mine had prostate cancer and leukemia. We were all from the same church and age group and had been friends for some time. Colleen and I walked through our caregiving days together. Her husband died in March 2011 and mine in June 2011…so we were together through it all.

    Jenny moved into our community and church group as a widow. Her husband had passed away a couple years before that and she became a solid rock to lean on and cry with.

    Then in October 2012, I moved to be the grandma that my son’s children needed, leaving my two walking partners behind, of course.

    I started the Bible Study in my new church that had already been in progress over a month. At the Christmas Tea I was introduced to Joy who would be starting the Bible Study after Christmas. She had been divorced some years ago and we found each other to be exactly what we needed. Since we met, Joy’s adult daughter was killed in a car accident and now her family is coming back together.

    In November 2014 Carole moved to Zionsville to be the grandma that her son’s family needed and we met through a group at church. We actually do go on walks together, plus sharing family activities, and many other events.

    When I go back to Rockford, I hope to stay with either Colleen or Jenny----and we can continue our “walking together” as if I had never moved away. And, I “just happen” to live close to and between Joy and Carole. This is great because I no longer can drive at night----and either one will gladly pick me up!

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  2. I have been blessed to have three walking partners. They are truly amazing women. Each one of them in their own way have taught me how to be a fighter. My first gift was Dolia. She starting walking with me about two months after my husband past. Dolia's husband actually past away 7 years ago. My husband and I walked with them during his illness and were present at his home going. Who would have thought that God would use her to walk along side me after my husbands home going. She advised me to grieve completely, to rest, exercise and allow the wave of emotions to come but to remember just as they come in they will also go out. Syble was my second gift. I met her three months after my husband past. She taught me that God would walk beside me even when I felt alone. She wanted me to understand and know that she would be there to encourage and support me. It actually helped me to understand Ruth. Syble prayed that God would use her to be an encouragement to other widows. My third gift was Denise. Denise is the intercessor who prays and keeps me focused on the plan of God. She is patient, calm and encouraging. She helps me put things in prospective. These women give me the freedom to express myself without a time limit, treat me with respect and kindness and are not afraid to tell me the truth when necessary. We meet every other week just for dinner and to catch up. Through their testimony, I'm reminded that loss doesn't change the purposes and plan of God. His plan always comes to past. The only hindrance to His plan is me. I thank God everyday for allowing them to be in my life. God really does know what's best for me. Thank you my sisters for saying yes to God and thank you Lord for planting the seed. I'm truly grateful..

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  3. What wonderful walking partners you have, and you ARE, Ruby and Jackie! I've loved hearing about these deep friendships.

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