Friday, March 12, 2010

Thanks to Christian Friends like Sue

Guest post by Allison 
In many ways, my friend Sue and I are as contrasting can be.The labels we wear? Sue: Sunny Californian. Single. Evangelical Christian. Me: Jersey Girl. Married. Practicing Catholic. Despite our asymmetry, and thanks to my sisterly friendship with Sue, I am becoming a better Catholic.

Sue grew up near me in our fancy New York suburb. Both our dads were surgeons. Her family was Evangelical and mine was Catholic. While we rode the same school bus, I didn’t know Sue and her sisters terribly well. Sue's family moved away to Southern California in 1978, where her dad opened a plastic-surgery practice. Frankly, I had not thought of Sue or her family until her name popped up on my Facebook page, suggesting we become “friends.”

Over the past year, Sue and I have shared numerous emails about our lives and our faith journeys. As one would expect from two women with different Christian faith traditions, we disagree on some doctrinal issues. But what joins us is much more powerful than what separates us. Through our cyber-relationship (I have yet to talk with her on the phone or see her in person), I now consider Sue a spiritual sister.

Sue is a novelist and painter who works for Jews for Jesus in Westwood Village. She seems to have an unshakable faith in God. Life has handed her some heartaches, yet she always projects hope.

For example, when I had a run-in with someone in my parish and was contemplating leaving that particular ministry, I emailed Sue. I felt betrayed by this person and hurt to the core. How could someone behave this way in a church? “I don't need this,” I wrote Sue. I was struggling. I knew Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother seventy-seven times. But did this rule really apply here? This person was toxic.

Sue offered a different perspective. “Stay with it,” she said. “I think they were just having a bad day.” Her generous heart and wise counsel enabled me to persevere. I am glad I did; we are all so flawed, aren’t we? I can learn far more as a Christian from bearing with my fellow travelers, and having them bear with me, than from walking away in anger, hurt, and condemnation.

Sue also has helped me in another difficult relationship in my life; someone with whom I once was close and who has done some terrible deeds. She regularly prays for them. She tells me God watches over all of us, even when we stumble and fall. She told me this person still is in God’s loving care.

I don’t yet have as generous a heart as Sue, or as brave and forgiving a spirit. As a Catholic Christian, I appreciate the depth of her Christian experience and the wise counsel of my spiritual sister. We encourage one another in our walk of faith.

And now, let me ask you, what friends who are not Catholic have helped deepen your Catholic faith?