I was fourteen years old when I met her at Tulsa Summer Arts. She went to the junior high school “across the river” in Sand Springs, and there was a certain rivalry between kids from opposite sides of the river. But we made fast friends and ate lunch together every day all summer long, laughing and talking about boys. We were a good match for each other, both with quick wits and maturity beyond our years–because we had both grown up fatherless and both had born the weight of being the “strong one” in the family. We had both seen and experienced things that quickly steal a child’s innocence. We just clicked effortlessly. But neither of us were Christians at that time.
During that summer art program, I fell in what-I-thought-was-love for the first time with (GASP!) a boy from the other side of the river. He was quarterback of the junior varsity football team, President of the Student Council, Captain of the Debate Team, and extremely charming. He swept me off my feet in a single all-nighter phone conversation, and I was a goner. I was captivated, and it seemed to be mutual. He was extremely intelligent and he made me think about things I’d never considered before. I was challenged by him and intrigued and just completely enraptured. But he was also more “experienced” than I was. He had lost his virginity in 6th grade, and I had done nothing but kiss up to that point. My hormones had totally not kicked in yet, and I was not interested at all in doing the things he wanted to do with me. But he was the first person to ever make me feel that I was understood, seen, loved, and so I did some things (not sex!) that made me feel incredibly dirty and guilty, which was strange to me because I had never been taught that I shouldn’t do those things. So a few days later, I worked up the courage to tell him that I didn’t want to do that stuff anymore; I wanted to stick to kissing. And things suddenly got really awkward, and I didn’t understand at all what was happening. And then a few days later, after a magical summer, and on the first day of 9th grade, he called me in the early morning, and he dumped me. I was CRUSHED.
Actually, I think it was the first time in my life I had been crushed. Of course, I should have been crushed when my father gave my mom a black eye or when he kicked my 6 year-old brother over and over again because he didn’t close the refrigerator door all the way, or when my parents finally divorced, or when my dad broke into our house that first Christmas after they split up and stole our tree and all our presents on Christmas Eve. You would think those things would crush a girl. But instead, I had put on this armor that was way too big for me, and determined that I was the strong one. My poor brother was repeatedly trying to inflict harm upon himself and my mother was just a nervous wreck at that time, understandably. So I just kind of decided that I had to be strong for them. And for everybody else. It became my identity. I was impenetrable. And I was for several years. I rarely cried, I was mean to anyone who got in my way, I was the “it” girl in elementary school because I had such a strong personality perhaps. And that was who I was and I took great pride in it: I WAS STRONG. I COULD HANDLE ANYTHING.
But at age 14, just a few weeks shy of 15, I discovered that I actually couldn’t depend on myself. As I sank deeper and deeper into depression, it became harder and harder for me to put on the pep as co-captain of the cheerleading squad for the JV team on which HE was the quarterback. I was just demolished. And I couldn’t hide it, and I couldn’t make it go away. Even then, I was as transparent as a piece of glass. Most of my friends just kind of abandoned me because I was obviously not much fun to be around, lamenting over some boy all the time.
But one fall Friday night at one of those dreaded football games, a girl came up to me. She was the one who I’d had all those lunches with that past summer. As we small-talked a bit, I could sense that there was something different about her that I hadn’t perceived just a few months ago at arts camp. But I couldn’t put my finger on it. I remember feeling really uncomfortable when she brought up the breakup, and she asked me so earnestly if I was doing okay. I put on a chipper face and insisted that I was just fine (even though the truth was that I was crying myself to sleep every night and not eating and feeling just completely lost). She looked me in the eyes in a way I’d never been looked at before, like she could see right through the the shattered piece of glass that I had become, and she told me that she could see I was hurting and that she’d really like for me to call her sometime and we could talk about it. I kind of blew her off, tucked her phone number into my cheerleading jacket, and got away from her as fast as I could, feeling extremely uncomfortable by her empathy. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I was supposed to be the strong girl, not some weakling that people pitied. I was irritated that she had seen through me so easily.
But that night, as I began to cry myself to sleep yet again, I had this thought that maybe talking to her might help. I didn’t have anyone else I could talk to about it, and I was even starting to have suicidal thoughts at that point. It was worth a shot. So I dug her phone number out of my jacket pocket at midnight or so, and I called her. (She had her own private line.) She answered, she listened to me for a long time, and then she told me that after summer arts camp, something extraordinary had happened to her. She had met Christ and had become a born-again Christian, and she proceeded to tell me some of the things He was doing in her life, and how He was healing her of old wounds. I had never heard anyone my age talk about God this way. I was curious, even intrigued, and so I agreed to go to church with her that next Sunday morning, just two days away. I went to Angus Acres Baptist Church, and I heard worship music for the first time in my life, and as I sang to God, something within me awakened. Something within me filled up as I sang praises to God and cried and asked Him to help me. I do not remember what Pastor Rick preached on that morning, but the Holy Spirit was moving inside my heart so pointedly that I don’t think it would have mattered. When he gave an altar call at the end of his sermon, I practically jumped out of my seat and ran down the aisle and got on my face before the Lord for the first time in my life. That girl followed me and led me to the Lord that Sunday morning. And from that day on, everything started to change.
The pain that had been crippling me subsided, my personality began to take on a new shape somehow, and I had this light and hope in me that brought me something I had never experienced before: JOY. And people noticed, just like I had noticed in her that night at the football game. How courageous she was, a baby Christian, to come to me and offer me Living Water. She was my Starr of Bethlehem, leading me to the place where I could meet my Savior King.
For 19 years, she has remained my best friend forever, though time and distance are against us. She is the first friend I called all 5 times I got pregnant, she is the one I call when I need godly counsel, or just a good laugh. Sometimes I miss her so bad that it puts me in a funk for a bit, like she’s part of my family. In fact, we send those videos to each other that normally only grandparents would care to watch. We were each others’ maids of honor, and somehow we have remained as close as sisters sharing a bedroom, even after all these years. We have sharpened each other over the years, as iron sharpens iron. She was my 30th birthday gift from my husband–he flew her to Japan for a week and I got to show her the land and people that I have come to love so much. And I am so grateful to God for putting her in my life.
She opened the door for me to enter into Narnia. Thank you, Starr. I love you beyond words.
But you see, that encounter was just the beginning. There is so much more to tell…..