We sat across from each other at a small table surrounded by glass displays of bakery treats lining bubblegum-pink walls. Everything in the cupcake bakery screamed too sweet and too bright. To me it felt like the place where the surface level world, dressed in their Sunday best with plastered on smiles, would go to fake fine.
We were two souls who had just met, ready to share two oversized and over-frosted cupcakes. But to my surprise, and relief, we weren’t meeting merely for the cupcakes or to share superficial words.
A few days before, in a conference room full of brand new Army wives, a speaker led a discussion on how to care for a family who loses a soldier. Normally the introvert, I surprised myself when my hand shot up. I found myself voluntarily sharing my experiences on loss and the grief I was knee-deep in after having just lost my child and father within weeks of each other.
The speaker was grateful for my contribution to the discussion, but I could feel the silence and awkwardness in the room forcing me to shrink back in my seat.
When we were dismissed, I rushed to my car, thankful to hide in the darkness of the night.
Anxiety and regret ran rampant inside me, and I scolded myself for revealing my broken heart to a group of women I didn’t know.
But the act that I thought was stupidly vulnerable ended up being the switch that God used to ignite a connection and bring me a friendship I wasn’t looking for, but needed. Later that same evening, one of the wives from the meeting found me on social media and sent me a message inviting me to meet for cupcakes.
My grief-stricken, wanting-to-hide, introverted self initially felt unsure of the invite, but then a sense of relief washed over me because her message meant my story and I didn’t scare everyone away. Still, I wanted to decline, but I felt the nudge to accept.
She had welcomed my act of vulnerability and I saw her invite, her attempt to connect, as an act of vulnerability. I wanted to honor that.
Vulnerable act met vulnerable act.
So we met for cupcakes.
We scraped off our superficial surfaces like we were scraping off frosting from a cupcake and shared from our deep and broken places.
She felt a connection to what I shared in the meeting, and she wanted connection in the places most people hide or turn away from. She didn’t want sugar-coated words. She wanted authenticity.
My father had just passed away from cancer; her dad was fighting stage 4 brain cancer. I had just buried my one month old baby girl, becoming a mother without her child; she was struggling with wanting to become a mother but not being able to have children. We were both brand new Army wives, separated from everything we had ever known, trying to understand this new world by taking an Army Wife 101 class.
Now here we were, strangers, sitting at a table unveiling our hearts and compassionately listening to each other’s fragile, sacred spaces as we shared sweet cupcakes and salty tears.
I had stumbled upon a friend who offered to share in the bittersweetness of life with me. A friend who lived out Romans 12:15 as she mourned with me, her tears mirroring mine as they slid down our cheeks, and rejoiced with me, her laughter mixing with mine as we spoke stories of profound love and joy.
Until I experienced it, I wasn’t aware of how much I needed the friendship she offered. Through her friendship, God brought me healing and breathed life into me again.
When we find ourselves journeying alone, afraid, hurting, we can expect one of God’s greatest provisions to be the friend who shows up, maybe even unexpectedly, and walks beside us. This friendship is sweeter than anything else.
To receive this gift of friendship, we have to be willing to open up, invite in, go forth, and do so courageously. When we share our vulnerable places, we open ourselves up to connection and sweet friendship.
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A sweet friendship refreshes the soul. (Proverbs 27:9b)