The Light of a True Friend

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When John and I first started hanging out, we’d talk on the phone most evenings after I put my children to bed. After my divorce, I lived with a friend who owned a gigantic house. I turned my bedroom into a studio-type apartment—a bed, a round table for the kids to do homework, a couch, and a television for us to have a space for ourselves. In the evenings, I’d turn on Madame Secretary, snuggle in my bed, and wait for John to call.

John usually called around 9p.m. Sometimes, I’d have to let the phone ring because the kids wouldn’t quite be in bed. He was living at a house on Lake Joy, which eventually became my house, too.

The only good place to talk on a cell phone at the house is on the dock, so every night, John would layer up and call me. If it was raining, which happens frequently in Seattle, he’d call me under his umbrella. He never complained. I think we were both happy for the company.

At the beginning, I had no idea where our friendship was headed. John was older than me by 16 years. His children were mostly grown, and the younger ones didn’t live with him. My kids were still young and lived with me. Life had been difficult for both of us and we were terribly tender and fragile, with little to no margin for games.

I decided to take small risks in our friendship in order to test him, to see how much honesty and authenticity he could handle. John was a good man, a man who hadn’t watch rated R movies for most of his adult life, never swore, and was genuinely innocent of evil. He was pure in heart, in a way I’d never experienced. I wasn’t sure he would know what to do with the likes of me.

It started with small confessions, theological mainly. He was a theology professor and had his doctorate in Spiritual Formation. Theology is important to both of us, but I wasn’t sure he’d know how to handle mine. I’d say things just to shock him, things like, “I believe in God, but sometimes I doubt everything.” Or I’d say, “I am not always sure what to make of the stories in the book of Genesis. Sometimes they sound like fables to me.”

Instead of mansplaining or correcting me, John listened and quietly admitted his own thoughts about things, which were thoughtful and wonderfully human.

My trust in him grew, so I began to tell hidden things I didn’t tell anyone else; secret fears I didn’t want people to know. In particular, I opened up about times when people had shamed me for parts of my personality, or slights I’d received because I’m a woman. Times I’d gotten too angry, or some of the ways boys and men had pressured me in the bedroom—things I felt sad about, but also ashamed. Each time I’d tell him more of my story, or give him more of myself, I’d be certain he was going to do that pastor thing. The thing spiritual men and women do who believe they’re just a little bit better than you, and listen, but never really engage, and assure you that even though they don’t have that issue, God still loves you. You end up feeling far more alone in the world after the conversation, and different.

Instead, John listened. John listened differently than any man I’d ever known. He didn’t try to fix me, or manage me, or put me back together, which was a breath of fresh air. The most startling thing was that he didn’t separate himself from me, he didn’t distance himself because I made him uncomfortable. He stayed with me in it, unflinchingly. Nothing made him uncomfortable. Nothing was too much. I was not too much woman, or too overwhelming, or too emotional. I was just right, and everything I shared was normal.

What happens when the parts of you that have been hidden for a long time come into the light of a true friend? You become more comfortable with yourself. You start to believe the things that always made you feel like you didn’t belong, or made you believe you were inferior to everyone else, maybe weren’t so true.

Over time, you become more at home with your own truest self.

This is what happened to me. It was remarkable.

So remarkable, I decided to marry him.

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Tina Osterhouse
Tina Osterhouse is passionate about living deeply and authentically. Through fiction, blog posts, and creative essays, she writes about ordinary life and the way God meets us in our everyday circumstances and creatively weaves the sacred into them. She studied ministry and theology at Northwest University, most recently lived on thirty acres in Southern Chile, and finally returned to the Seattle area in June of 2015.
Tina Osterhouse
Tina Osterhouse

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