By Marla Ledbetter
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.”
“There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother (or sister).”
Proverbs 18:24 NLT
I remember my very first friend. I was about 5 or 6—back in the day when it was safe for a five-year old to roam around the neighborhood. Jo was making mud pies and invited me to join her. That’s all it took. We became inseparable. She spent summers and school day afternoons at my house while her mother worked. I thought Jo was the smartest person I knew. She taught me things. We had fun. But one hot summer Friday, my Mamaw and Papaw were coming up for a few days. I couldn’t wait for Mamaw to get there. She always had chewing gum and $2 in her big black purse.
Now Jo had never met my Mamaw. I wasn’t so sure of how this would go. I came up with a plan. Just as I heard them pulling up in the driveway, I lured Jo into a storage room behind the carport to play. I ran out and locked her by putting a stick in the latch. I then scurried off to hug my Mamaw and Papaw while Jo was yelling “Marla, don’t leave me in here! It’s dark and hot! There’s bugs in here!! Somebody let me out!!!!”
A few hours later (yes hours), Mamaw went to get something out of the freezer to help my mom start supper—the freezer in the storage room—and there she met Jo. Burning slap up, mad as a hornet, feelings hurt, scared as a rabbit, Jo. For some reason, Jo made a really big deal about being locked in the storage room and I got in a boatload of trouble. Of course the question everyone (especially Jo’s momma) was asking—“Marla, why in this world would you do that???” And even though I felt really bad in the end, I just shrugged and said “I don’t know.” But as you probably have already analyzed, I did know. I wouldn’t admit it to anyone for years and years. But here’s the thing. I was scared and insecure. What if Mamaw Ellie liked Jo more than she liked me? What if Mamaw gave Jo my $2 and my juicy fruit chewing gum? What if Mamaw thought Jo was cuter? What if Mamaw thought Jo was better at being a little girl than I was? How ironic that I didn’t really think about what if Mamaw thought I was mean and selfish by locking my best friend in the storage room!
You know something? I haven’t changed much over the years. I have some truly wonderful friends that put up with me, love me, teach me things, but many times because of my unfounded, self-imposed insecurities and fears, I lock you away and won’t let you in. I’m afraid that someone will think you’re prettier, smarter, wiser, braver, _____________. (you can fill in the blank) Why do I do that? We need each other. I need you. As Ecclesiastes 4:10 reminds me, I will indeed fall—it’s inevitable. I need you there to lift me up. I need a good return for my labor and that’s only possible if you’re there. And I know you want to be there for me. But I have to let you be there. I have to trust you. I have to unlock the storage room I’ve put you in. Jo forgave me. We laughed about it years down the road. Now I hope you will too. Come on out. Let’s play.