I wanted to visit my friend in her home one last time before she moved to a senior living facility with supportive services. This home, from which she will soon move, has the fragrance of a sanctuary for me and for many. Countless prayers have been heard by these walls. Countless stories have been confided in this place knowing the walls could not talk and the listener would not talk (to anyone except God, that is.)
There was an unfamiliar dread in my own heart as I drove toward this visit. It was a strange thing to experience because it was replacing the joyful anticipation of spending time in a friendship I have learned to cherish. I asked myself why this was hard for me. I reminded myself that I had made this same trip for probably 40 years.
It began when I sought counsel for my own confused and broken heart. I was gently but firmly pointed to God’s Word as it was applied to my life with the wisdom of one who knows how to hold grace and truth in tension. Later the visits became more of a mentoring relationship as I was trusted with ministry responsibilities. I valued the security of a safe place to talk and someone who would ask me hard questions and hold the bar high. I sometimes told others that this friend “drilled in my teeth.” But I met with her as often as I could because I knew I was loved and I knew both I and those I love were being prayed for.
In recent years, though counseling and mentoring still happen, our time together is more characterized by friendship. I smile as she calls me her pastor and her friend, knowing she is genuine in this description but also knowing how generous God has been to make this true.
As I arrived at the familiar modest home the door flew open and my name was called with the tone of someone who was glad I was there. As we settled in what was now a sparsely furnished room my eyes scanned the barren walls that had been covered with cherished pieces of art. Most of the wall décor would prompt a story of its origin and meaning. I stated the obvious thing to my friend and said, “There is nothing on your walls.” She agreed that this was true.
It didn’t take me long to realize that even though the walls were barren the heart of my friend was blossoming. She bubbled over with joy as she talked about the kindness and love that was being poured out on her and her beloved husband by their children. She described what their new place would be like and assured me I would love it there. She testified to the footprints she had detected in her life events that she knew were arranged by God. She spoke with strength of his revealing Himself to her.
At one point when she rose from her chair, she acknowledged some dizziness. She grabbed her walker just to be safe. This physical weakness confirmed that the move was a good thing. It’s also a good thing that weakness is undetectable in her spiritual and emotional journey.
As I had come to expect, she asked me what God had been teaching me and with excitement opened her Bible to the verses I referenced declaring she had never seen that in the scripture before. At almost 88 years old having devoured the Bible for most of these years, she was allowing the living word to speak new things.
As we prayed together the blossoms in her heart released a familiar fragrance. The friend who knows me and loves me anyway will have a new address but her heart will not have a new home. The fragrance I thought I would miss was not coming from the now barren walls but from the heart that is at home with Jesus.
I drove away looking forward to our next visit, eager to see how the new walls will be decorated and eager to encounter the heart whose home is eternal.