We never forget our first BFF, do we?
I met Shelby in first grade. And from day one, we were tight. You couldn’t pry us apart with a crowbar. When she moved to Michigan in fifth grade, we made plans to sneak me in the backseat underneath a blanket so we could stay together.
We were always wearing the “Best Friends” jewelry. One necklace or bracelet said one word, and the other piece the next word. You’ve seen those. In school, we weren’t just Jessica and Shelby. We were Jessica-AND-Shelby, always and forever. Amen. So when she gave me a ring for my birthday, I treasured it. It wasn’t anything fancy. It was, at best, made of iron. I couldn’t tell you now. It’s been years. But I distinctively remember how it came around my finger to form a heart. I wore it everywhere until it turned my little fingers green. I never took it off.
Going to the store? Poor cashiers. “Look at my ring! My best friend gave it to me!” Teachers? “It’s from Shelby!” Doctor? “Yeah. It turns my finger green. But it’s special!” Everyone, everywhere, knew I loved my ring, and it came from my very best friend.
One day in fourth grade, I took my ring off to wash my hands. When I dried my hands and threw my towel away, the ring got thrown out with it. When I got back to the classroom and realized it was gone, I was frantic. I begged my teacher to let me go look for it, but she said I would have to wait until recess.
When the bell rang, I ran to the bathroom. Shelby was right behind me. Knowing we were both going to miss recess to look for my ring, she still wanted to help. And for the next thirty minutes, we dig through trash and more trash trying to find it. But the most profound moment, which I’m sure God ordained all those years prior to this message, is when Shelby said the strangest thing. Word for word, I remember it very clearly. When I told her she would miss recess if she helped me, she said, “I’ll look with you forever.”
When baby Christians are first born, it’s so exciting to watch them, isn’t it? They wear their Jesus boldly and proudly, and you see them approach life like they could swing over hell on a wet noodle. Praise God for their joy! But then, the ins and outs of life take place… Whether you’ve walked with God for decades upon decades, or known Him for only a short time, most of us have, at some time or another, taken that beautiful thing that we once so cherished and tossed it aside. It’s part of our human, fleshy, and selfish side that chooses to miss “just one” Sunday, or “just one” devotional time. Suddenly, “just one” turns into so many that by the time you notice you’re on the wrong path, you don’t know where you are or how you managed to get so far.
Fortunately for our human selves, we have a loving, merciful, gracious Father who loves us enough to set us back on the right path; a Father who, in His perfect love and justness, is willing to dig through the trash of our lives, no matter how long it takes, to find the treasure we lost in our carelessness. He loves us so much that, even when we take our inheritance and spend it on worthless things, and then return with nothing and begging to be a servant because we aren’t worthy of the title of a son or daughter, He welcomes us home. He places the family ring on our finger, throws a party in heaven, and exclaims ecstatically, “My child is home.”
Shelby and I, sadly, haven’t seen each other in thirteen years. A piece of my heart still longs to see her again, and I hope someday I do. There’s always a very special place in your heart for your first best friend. Just recently, I was thinking, if we have friends willing to dig through the trash with us to find a silly iron ring, how much more is our Heavenly Father willing to do for us to bring us home?
Wherever you are in this life, whatever path you’re on, if you’re a wayward kid or if you’re Jesus’ sidekick, know this: God is willing to meet you wherever you are, in whatever situation, and He will dig through the remnants with you, even if it means digging through bathroom trash. He’s willing to go that far for you because He LOVES you. Yes, even you, you who is thinking, “You don’t understand, Jessie. I’ve gone way too far,” or “I’m too damaged.”
You want to know a secret? You’re right. You’re too damaged, and you’ve gone way too far. Praise God. When you’re damaged goods or a wretched sinner, you get to experience Jesus. Aren’t you glad you’re not perfect?
PS. Where’s Waldo? Forget that! Where’s Jessie? First one to find me in this fourth grade picture of my class and comment with the right answer gets the first ever “Guitar Leg” giveaway! What’s the prize? You’ll just have to win to find out! (Family and friends, and everyone I went to elementary school with, is out of luck. Sorry! It just wouldn’t be fair.)