Friends on the Edge

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“In one sense, faith is hard, but it’s not the rock solid hard I’ve often thought it should be. For me, it’s the difficult hard … “

By Charlene Kwiatkowski

I met up with her at Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver, even though we were Ottawa acquaintances. She once said how strange that people from all over the country converge in the same city to study. We were done studying and were now catching up on the other side of the country, at the beach–an appropriate edge place for two people close to falling off at similar times in their lives.

Pulling our undergraduate years out from the boxes we kept them in, we talked about the past with the comfort and ease that hindsight gives two people with a common experience. We held our years up to the Vancouver light to see if a new time and space would reveal different layers, colours and angles that hadn’t been noticeable before. Sure enough, we discovered similar pieces in both our boxes we weren’t aware of previously.

In university, I thought she had it all figured out: her and her sophisticated glasses that spoke confident first-year student. She thought likewise, with my colour-coded notetaking strategies. My journals would quickly tell her otherwise.

The truth is, I was losing my faith and so was she. I didn’t even know she had a faith. After all, our friendship didn’t develop until we were almost finished the program, and even by then, I didn’t discover what I discovered that morning at Kits Beach. The liberal arts program we pursued was exactly the type that made my mother give me a copy of How to Stay a Christian in College. It was the kind of program that made her worry about me and not just if I was eating the right amount of vegetables. Removed from the support of family and church, I was thrown on the rocks, exposed to the merciless attack of professors intent on wearing down–in one lecture–the faith that had taken me years to build. To a certain degree, I expected this attack when I enrolled, but not my inability to handle it. It’s hard to measure how strong your faith is until it’s tested.

Tested

I was certainly tested that year. I felt like the only one in the program trying to hold onto my faith and education; meanwhile my friend was on the rocks too, attempting to do the same. I was so absorbed in my own crisis I didn’t see her, and she was so concerned about keeping hers private, she didn’t notice she had company.

We inadvertently denied ourselves one another’s support by keeping too much too close.

After discovering this similar experience, my friend has grown dearer to me  than she ever was when we were in the same place, studying the same thing, and working towards the same degree. Even pulling this piece out from our boxes six years too late, I feel less alone when I look back on that time in school. It’s as if it’s not too late.

We both found our separate ways to finish school and keep the faith. Talking to people about our experiences (even if not to each other) and getting support from faith-based campus groups and church communities helped pull us back from the edge we were close to slipping off.

Just because we survived our undergraduate years, doesn’t mean our faith struggle is over. Like the waves that roll in and out of Kits Beach, we discussed how faith moves with each new idea, person and circumstance that pushes and pulls it in one direction or another. In one sense, faith is hard, but it’s not the rock solid hard I’ve often thought it should be. It’s the difficult hard that has to navigate the many things that try and rock it.

I would have loved to know my Ottawa friend better when we were both on the edge, but I am thankful that, despite the time lag, we were put in the same space one Vancouver morning, ready to reveal what had been hidden and offer each other the support now that we failed to give then.

______________________

Dear SheLoves readers:

  • What’s a difficult faith experience you’ve had that you got through with the help of an “edge friend”?
  • Have you had a conversation with someone–a friend, acquaintance, or even a stranger–that you thought came “too late?” Was it, in fact, too late?

________________________

About Charlene:

Charlene is a city lover currently biding her time in the suburbs. Having recently finished her Master’s degree in English Lit, she’s now reading for fun and pursuing creative writing in her spare time. She blogs about urban art and spaces at textingthecity.wordpress.com

Image credit: Friends, by Jamie Harris 

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Idelette McVicker
If you only know one thing about me, I'd love for you to know this: I love Jesus, justice and living juicy. I also happen to drive a minivan and drink my lattes plain. (My life is exciting enough!) Nineteen years ago, I moved from Taiwan to Canada to marry Scott. We have two teenagers, a preteen, a Bernese Mountain dog and a restaurant. (Ask Scott to tell you our love story.) In 2010, I founded SheLovesmagazine.com and it has now grown to include a Dangerous Women membership community, a Red Couch Bookclub, events and gatherings. I'd like to think of it as curating transformational spaces for women in community. I long for women to be strong in our faith and voice, so we can be advocates for God’s heart for justice here on earth. As an Afrikaner woman, born and raised in South Africa during Apartheid, my story humbly compels me to step out for justice and everyday peacemaking. I have also seen firsthand the impact injustice has had on the lives and stories of women around the world. I refuse to stay silent. I am anti-racist and also a recovering racist. I am a Seven on the Enneagram, an INFP and I mostly wear black, with a dash of animal print or faux fur.
Idelette McVicker