[September 27, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

Yesterday I watched Jeff S’s live concert on the web. Megan and I watched it together, and her husband David got home from work in the middle and watched it too once he’d tucked Meg’s youngest child into bed. Megan sometimes sang backing harmonies with her exquisite soprano. I danced my hands in the air to the rhythms and the words, letting my hands go up in worship when they felt like it. We all sang harmonies during the final encore It Is Well With My Soul.

Yesterday Meg and I sat on her couch and walked by the river near her house and she shared with me some of the pain and adversity in her childhood and former marriage. We feel like sisters. We ARE sisters. We are friends. A couple of times Meg did a big pour and then reflexively ended it with “I’m sorry, I’m talking too much.” “No you’re not,” I told her. I love “D and Ms” when they come out organically (= deep and meaningful conversations).

Yesterday Memphis shared on this blog something so moving I had tears pouring down my face as I read the comment out loud to Meg at Meg’s kitchen table, and Meg was weeping too.

The day before yesterday Meg’s sweet four year old, I sat on my lap in a comfy armchair and sang me a song she learned at preschool: “I just thank you God for making me, me! not you, but me!” On the word you she pointed to me, and on the word me she pointed to herself. Differentiation. Individuality. Identity. Truth. Love. The delightful dance of interacting from our individual and emerging personalities when our boundaries are honoured and respected and love can flow between us because that is so.

Yesterday during Jeff’s concert I felt Christ was there (here). The lyrics and the spirit with which Jeff sang and played did not ‘evoke’ the presence of Christ. Words can barely convey this. Jesus was there because He was honoured, and because the emotions and pain of our suffering and our resistance to adversity were honoured. Jesus was not cited, not alluded to, not put on a platform and adulated. He was present because Jeff’s songs go so deep into the heart and the intestines, the hollow organs which are deeply innervated and connected to the brain and the mind (we call them gut feelings because they are; there is real anatomy and physiology behind that expression) that the songs invite and allow us to honour our gut feelings, where the pain of the adversity has been felt. Jesus is in that place. God desires truth in the inward parts, and when we allow that and especially when friends are present with us, honouring it too, not coercing or controlling or writing the script for what ‘should’ happen, His love melts and flows like osmosis across the membranes of our cells, bestowing, as the most tender and humble gift of frankincense offered but not imposed, His understanding, empathy and compassion. And we heal.

And Jesus is the best Friend and He may do this between just one believer and Himself — but when it happens with other friends companioning us, with brother and sister Christians, oh how precious.

Christ in us. Us in Christ. One in Him.

I often think about all the readers who read this blog who don’t comment. The quiet ones. The silent but present ones. I want to honour you all. You are loved and valued and precious witnesses, sharing our friendship in this sweet blog family. Every one of you has your own special story, with many overlaps with other stories but with each your own individual experiences of adversity and resistance and victory and deliverance and the creative ways you maintain dignity and honour in the face of oppression and evil.

I told Meg yesterday that I don’t have many friends in Australia. One in another State of Australia who is part of this blog family. None in the town I live in are part of this blog, to my knowledge. I have three good friends in my town, but they don’t go deep into the stuff we do on this blog. I have a dear survivor friend in Melbourne who is minding my dog while I’m in the States; her young dog and my old dog are keeping each other company. 🙂  The readers and contributors here on this blog  are my core friendship network. And I think for many of you it is the same: we feel pretty isolated in our own local communities, but here on this blog we can be real and go deep — or slap happy or uproariously funny or sarcastic —  if we wish.

I pondered what category to put this post in. Victims? Supporting victims? No, they were not big enough. I decided it fitted best in the Christianity category because —

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:35  ESV)

[September 27, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to September 27, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to September 27, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to September 27, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 27, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]

22 thoughts on “Friends”

  1. Oh, Barbara, that was beautiful!!! I just finished my time with Jesus. I love meeting Him daily in the quietness and writing out my praises and prayers. Then your email arrived.

    I no longer live in the US, but in the UK. I have the privilege of reading these posts right away because of the time difference.

    Your words reached deeply into my heart as I understand them as my own. I must read them again and post [comment] later. I only wished to comment while there was a fresh flow of what I am feeling.

    Thank you for sharing your time with Megan, and the depth of your insights.

    “….If you have love, one for another” knows no geographic boundaries or walls!

  2. Barbara, that was indeed a sweet time among friends. In fact, it was a real treat for me personally because it was one of the first times when multiple “worlds” of mine collided. People from my online blogging, my work, and my church were all there participating. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like there’s the “online” me, the “work” me, and the “church” me – but it was just me and my friends, wherever they came from last night. And it was all about Jesus – nothing held back. That’s what the true church is all about. And I do believe we were known by our love.

  3. I often think about all the readers who read this blog who don’t comment. The quiet ones. The silent but present ones. I want to honour you all. You are loved and valued and precious witnesses….

    This is very encouraging as sometimes the loneliness is heavy. Thank you.

  4. David and I read this this morning and I cried AGAIN (for the 80th time….). The REAL Bride of Christ is truly a gift….a beautiful, beautiful gift….

  5. This is the real body of Christ in love with compassion that moves one to action. So beautiful. I’m glad to know some of you and call you friends!

    1. I consider my friends here family! I have actually never had any friends since before the MIW….and unfortunately where we are is pretty isolating!! But I am so grateful that you all welcomed me, reined me in when needed, let me be my true self, blurts, blunders and all.
      Someday I want to meet each and everyone of you and give you a huga-mongous hug!!
      Hopefully it won’t be too long, I still wanna have all my hair, teeth, and be able to stand up and get my arms around you!

  6. I have to echo all the thoughts and feelings others have written here; this is beautiful, Barbara. And I also have to say that I found this community when I needed it the most. I was really disillusioned and hurt over the way my church handled my situation. I was feeling like I didn’t matter to God – like there was nothing inherently valuable about me as a person at all and my value was found in playing a role. I couldn’t separate everything I was being told from who the true God of the Bible was. I was deathly afraid because I was getting angry at God and I started thinking I was losing my faith. I didn’t know how to deal with the fact that unbelievers seemed to be more merciful, compassionate, and righteous than those who were supposedly indwelled by Christ Himself. I begged Jesus to not let me go. But the more I read here, and the more I seen the love of Christ demonstrated between everyone here, I was able to start reconciling what knew intuitively to be true with what the Bible says and I was able to start re-building my faith.

    Be encouraged, ACFJ community. You may never realize on this side of eternity the impact you have made for the kingdom. I am also forever thankful to God for you all, as so many others here are. Praise Him. ❤

    1. Oh, Desley, how very, very beautiful. I am amazed at how I could have written those very words above. I feel like you took my heart and read it and then formed it into a comment! ha! I felt that disconnect, as well. Little did we know that God was wooing us to a place where we could experience His love….in all of its genuine reality.

  7. I agree, Desley. It is a mind trip to see unbelievers that are more merciful and compassionate than the folks in church. Must be a parallel why Jesus’ most passionate and condemning addresses were made to the self-righteous Pharisees and religious leaders who were abusing His sheep. Jesus came to save the lost, not the [self]-righteous.

    Thank you, Barbara, for all your encouragement and love. I’ve just arrived and already feel accepted here. Curious, what does it mean, that thing you do with the word “church”?

    Thank the Lord for new friends in the love of Christ! So thankful He led me here.

    1. One of our Anonymouses invented the word ‘c’hurch. The lowercase ‘c’ is to indicate that the people who attend the church are likely in many cases to be not be regenerate Christians. In some churches, there may be a majority of people who are not regenerate believers, they only think they have been made alive in Christ and entered the kingdom of God, but they are actually still dead in their sins in the kingdom of darkness. Such a church is going to be very likely to treat Christian victims of abuse unjustly and without much empathy or compassion.

      I suppose it’s similar to the theologians’ distinction between the visible church (the people who attend the worship service each week) and the invisible Church (the body of truly born again believers from all times and places). The visible church may have unregenerate people among its members. People who may think they are Christians, but are not. Another word for it would be nominal Christians. But we like the word ‘c’hurch because it’s so short and simple.

      Thanks for asking. We might need to have a little section in the top tabs somewhere for special words and acronyms. Like for example the name Memphis Rayne uses for her abuser: the MIW which is short for Monster-in-Wedlock.

  8. Oh, Barb, what a lovely post! This is the place where we can all be our real selves, our raw selves, and still find acceptance. I can so totally relate to Jeff’s reference to the “work” me, the “church” me. But, I do feel like this is where I can just be me, no holding back. The worship last night was the best I’ve experienced in a very, very long time. I could sense each and every one of you here with me, no doubt because the Holy Spirit that was touching you was also touching me. I could feel that very real connection between us all last night in a very profound way. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to wake up and find out this was all a dream. I can’t believe how blessed I am to call you all my friends.

  9. That is so wonderful, Barb! I have had trouble reaching out to women for years – I always seem to get rejected. I don’t know how much of that is me, or them or things my MIW [Monster-in-Wedlock] said to them about me – but the result is the same. I have a good deal of difficulty making and maintaining close friendships. They scare me. I am feeling farther away from God than I have in years – but I know He is not far from me.

    1. I was like that too for many years post separation from my first husband. I think a big part of it, for me, was that I wanted a friendship to include more “D and Ms” than most people are looking for or comfortable with. I wanted and NEEDED to share my story and my pain, and they were uncomfortable with that. Or they patted me on the back to soothe me but giving me the impression they wanted to shut the conversation down. Or they offered ‘advice’ and ‘should-ed’ on me. You know the landscape….

      So all my attempts at friendship went pretty much nowhere, unless the friend was a fellow survivor. And most of the fellow survivors I found to befriend (through a support group for Domestic Violence) were non-Christians. So that severely limited the friendship in another dimension….

      1. You have hit it on the head, Barb. The ladies I am closest too are all former and present abuse victims. (I hate the word “victim” – but if it acts like a duck). 2 of these ladies are currently in abusive marriages, but I have avoided pointing that out to them – and just continue to pray. No one else understands my life, or even cares to know about it. I really hate superficial friendships and that seems to be what most of the world and the church are best at.

      2. I have found that friendship is extremely hard to find, the kind you describe….

        I was reading a blog recently of a woman who lost her 12 year old son in a horrific accident in 2011. She has written extensively about the type of friend that she used to be….the kind that wanted to just hang out on the porch or wave to on the street or drop off a pound cake after a tragedy – not the kind of friend who could stand by someone through the mess (and length) of a serious life event.

        People naturally don’t want to listen and hold hands with someone long-term in the midst of grief and horror – we want to be shallow. (And I’m including Christians in that, sadly.)

        I told someone recently that it’s the difference between being friends with a flock of butterflies vs. being friends with an oak tree. I am an oak tree and I pray for friends that are the same – but so far I struggle alone. (Well, except for the people here! 🙂 )

        Maybe it takes going through a mess of our own to put us in tune with the kind of friends and support that we are called to be — a friend to the oppressed, long suffering, and patient. I admit I still struggle sometimes with patience.

        On the topic of “offering advice and shouldas” — I will say that some of us are more geared to “fixing” problems than just listening silently. I am continually trying to offer help that might fix real problems because that’s my nature, whether it’s building shelves for somebody or offering some other solution. It’s not because I don’t empathize, it’s just because I want to help. But I think the difference is that it’s not followed with “well, now you should get over this because the problem is all wrapped up”….

        [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

      3. Ha, Katy. When you can build shelves that wrap up all a person’s problems, you can build as many shelves as you like. In fact, every one on this blog will be standing in line waiting for you to build shelves for them! I can see it now: “KATY’S AMAZING SHELVES — BETTER THAN MARY POPPIN’S CARPET BAG! Roll up, roll up folks, Katy has the magic touch!”

        But even if shelves are just useful to hold books and bit and pieces, they are useful things, and sometimes a shelf in a depressing room can really make a person feel a bit better, like one part of their life is at least a bit less problematic….so I’m all for shelf-building and house maintenance assistance for survivors. Practical help like that is what real friends do for each other, as well as providing opportunities for “D and Ms”.

  10. Barbara, thank you for explaining ‘c’hurch and MIW. An acronym decoder would be beneficial.

    In my area we are blessed to have a faith-based support group that goes by the name of A.R.M.S. (Abuse Recovery Ministry Services) Abuse Recovery Ministry Services. They are only in a few states presently (Washington, Oregon, Texas maybe a couple others), but are expanding. They have sent representatives to California and Pennsylvania and would like to continue to expand. Their website offers some very good resources including material to educate pastors and ministers.

    A friend in need, is a friend indeed.

    1. Friend of the Oppressed, I have heard of A.R.M.S. In fact, I made email contact with the leaders of ARMS in Oregon when I was there last August. I’m spending quite a lot of time in Oregon on this trip too, and will try to make contact with them again. I am glad you have found it a helpful organization.

  11. I was one of the lurkers, quietly reading from post to post, following the lead of the Holy Spirit. The wisdom I found, the heartfelt stories and pleas, the sense of community was a new concept to me.

    It is within this community my eyes were opened to my own circumstances, first the posts, then the comments.

    I was led here in the process of coping with 24 / 7 flashbacks, processing through the re-integration of memories. Each morsel I read added a piece to the puzzle, rotating the kaleidoscope to create a different, truer picture.

    I was content with lurking, taking breaks to prevent dissociation, taking breaks to rest a weary mind. Many times, I wanted to reach through the screen and lay a gentle hand of comfort on someone in pain. I wanted to stomp my feet in frustration at the mistreatment received from those in ministry, from a secular bureaucratic system.

    Finally, the Holy Spirit nudged me to speak, to “go public” with my processing. The task has not been an easy one. I am an introvert and not a public person. I felt I was ripping scabs off, bleeding in front of an unknown audience.

    (I do remember the Holy Spirit telling me months before the walls started to crumble and the flashbacks started, I would need to to take my story public. I was willing, but not what was to come, nor what it would entail.)

    So now you will find my airbrushed story, strewn in bits and pieces throughout the ACFJ website, like crumbs for Hansel and Gretel.

    I could not have done it without any of you, lurkers included.

      1. And I you, Barb.

        While the heavy duty re-integration appears complete, there is more work to be done. Music, I know, plays a part. (Pun intended…. 🙂 )

        There is so much more to read – and re-read – on the ACFJ website, so much more to learn. I feel more passion for this than anything in my entire life – and believe me, I have some substantial stands I have unobtrusively made….

        The Holy Spirit does not intend me to remain silent, so my story here will continue. There will be a shift, in the sense of my mind being clearer and my memory less likely to falter. There will likely still be some airbrushing….I do not fear past abusers. I am more concerned in some ephemeral way with becoming a potential target to someone else….perhaps that, too, will shift.

        Perhaps I can help others find words….

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