BFF or Not

By Jeanette Levellie

Dee and I had been close friends for several years, but I’d shied away from referring to anyone as my “best” friend: Even this perky optimist who had prayed and cheered me through dozens of rough places.

I’d been hurt too many times to open my heart and my mouth to that “B” word again.

As a pastor’s wife, I knew it wasn’t wise to form super close relationships with women of our church. I’d done that a few times at big-city congregations, and then later regretted it when ladies I considered confidants turned into critics. Living a fishbowl existence is hard enough without the people you serve on Sunday gossiping about you Monday-Saturday. Although I had many friends, I refused to call any of them “best.”

But when we moved to a rural community seventeen years ago, our church members were so warm and accepting of us city transplants, I gave my heart away again.

Her name was Greta. We were best friends for five years. She shared fashion and health tips with me; I encouraged her after a battle with cancer, even writing a song for her about God’s peace overcoming our storms.

But as Greta gained strength and faith, her boldness to share issues she disliked about the church increased. She even rebuked me for being two minutes late on Sundays, calling it “passive rebellion.” When I accidentally interrupted her prayer over the cookies and punch at Vacation Bible School, she grabbed my arm and screamed at me in front of several kids and workers. I went home sobbing.And I vowed that I’d never call another lady my best friend.

Then Dee and I met at a local writer’s group. When we shared a hotel room together at a conference, we bonded like kindergarteners sharing the same play-doh can the first day of school. Our voices were hoarse by the time we returned home, having yakked and laughed ‘till our faces ached.

It was an improbable alliance. Dee had five kids still at home and both of mine were grown. She was on her second marriage, and I’d been married to the same guy for thirty-plus years. But the Lord knit our hearts together. We began meeting once a month for prayer and to help each other improve our writing skills.

When Dee needed help with a stubborn daughter, I gave her my shoulder and my best counsel, based on my own rebellious teen years. When my daughter went through a divorce, Dee befriended her, listening to her problems for hours at a time. She even gave her money to help with bills.

Still I refused to say that Dee was my best friend; a close friend, yes; one of my dearest friends, okay – even one of my top three friends. As long as I didn’t put her in that BFF category, I’d be protected from the crush of betrayal. I needed to keep that door of my heart tightly shut.

Then one winter day when murky skies clouded my outlook, Dee sent me the rough draft of an article she wanted to collaborate on. It was an “I thought/she thought” story about how we almost didn’t meet due to schedule craziness on both our parts. When I read the words, “Although some would call this an unlikely friendship, Jeanette has become my best friend,” I felt a tug on my heart. Perhaps that long tightly shut door was creaking open a bit.

When my husband and I planned the eight-hour trip to visit our daughter and her kids, Dee texted me a few days before, telling me she had some supplies for Marie that she’d gotten good deals on. Since I was working, I arranged for my husband to meet Dee and get the items – one box or maybe two, I told him. “Just some shampoo and granola bars and toothpaste, to help Marie fluff out her skinny budget.” When I walked in the back door that night, our ten-foot counter groaned under the weight of box after box of toiletries, food and fun items for Marie and her family. “There must be $300 worth of stuff here!” said my husband as he waved his hand over the pile of love in action.

“Wow,” I said, “and she’s never even met Marie.”

Later that evening, I texted Dee to thank her for her generosity.

“I got most of it for free with coupons,” she said. “I think God gave me the gift of couponing, so I could help others. And besides, I love you.”

My eyes brimmed with tears as I realized the door to my heart had opened another few inches, and a wee ray of hope was peeking through. Could God be hinting that it was okay for me to take a risk, that I needed to put the past behind me, and that Dee was worthy of “Best Friend” status? I received my answer a week later.

Dee’s father-in-law Larry had been very ill for over a year, having suffered two severe strokes and several minor ones, leaving him bedfast. Early on a Friday morning, they found Larry unresponsive.

When I heard the news, I wanted to do something to help Dee and her in-laws. Even though I’d never met Larry, I felt an urgency to reach out to Dee and help ease her family’s grief.

“Please tell your mother-in-law that I’d like to sing at Larry’s funeral free of charge,” I told Dee. Larry’s widow Judy was delighted. I chose two songs and arranged to take the day off of work.

After the funeral service, several people approached me, telling me how much they appreciated my songs. Judy was the most gracious of them all. “It was so sweet of you to offer to sing,” she said through her tears.

“It’s the least I could do,” I answered, hugging her tightly, my heart open wide. “That’s what Best Friends are for.”

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    3 Responses to “BFF or Not”

    1. Linda O'Connell says:

      What a lovely story, Jeanette.

    2. Lily R says:

      Sweet story. I think a lot of us can relate to being hurt by “best friends”. So glad God healed that wound!

    3. Sandra Knight says:

      What a powerful story Jeanette! It really hit home with me and gave me hope.

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