I spent much of the past week at home in Washington state, where I celebrated my childhood best friend’s wedding. I first intended to write this as a letter to her, but I decided at the last minute to amend and share it as a speech at her rehearsal dinner. Afterward, she reminded me of another memory I had forgotten entirely at the time; it’s funny how things come full circle.
I read once that East Asian cultures believe in what they call the “red string of fate.” In this myth, the gods tied an unbreakable red cord around the ankles of two people who were destined to be together. Regardless of time, place, or circumstances, the two would be drawn to each other time and again by the magical bond; though it might stretch, twist, or tangle, the cord would never break.
That story describes my relationship with my friend Morgann. And while I don’t believe in gods tying our ankles together, I do think God gave us each other long ago for good reasons I’m only now beginning to realize. I’ve never been more aware of just how much my heart needs Morgann.
We have, at times, literally been tied at the ankles. In elementary school, Morgann and I ran the three-legged race in multi-church youth game competitions (which are just as deliciously churchy as you’d think) and we were fast. We dominated those races; we set the record. We could loop that Velcro band around our ankles, wrap an arm around each other’s shoulders, and just run in total lock step, totally in sync.
Maybe those three-legged races were more symbolic than we thought. When the games were over and the Velcro came off our ankles, I guess we just stayed that way in our hearts.
Over the last ten years, Morgann and I have done both everything and nothing together, especially since she started college in California and I adopted this annoying habit of moving farther and farther away. Our families live about half an hour away from each other, a distance I used to think was much too far; little did I know growing up that God would one day put an entire continent between us. Even back when Morgann and I were just thirty minutes part, we still went to different schools and churches. And then we chose unique universities and studied different subjects with distinctive vocations in mind. We made new friends and even drifted away from each other, as often happens with relationships forced to stretch over many miles.
She is there. She was there. She always has been there, so much so that I can hardly recall a time in my life before her—before her heart was right next to mine. I think we both know that the red string that ties our hearts is made of so much more than just fried chicken and camping trips. It has stretched across continents of heartache, and twisted as we’ve helped each other fight our battles. The red string has been the rope with which she has saved me, pulling me up out of deep holes, time and again, when I didn’t know how to help save myself.
Even when I didn’t know my heart needed Morgann—perhaps especially then—she was there. I hope she knows that I was always there for her, too.
She got married on Saturday, and I got to be there—really, physically, there. My presence there wasn’t perfect. It actually was very hard. Yet, Morgann showed me grace in many ways in the days leading up to her wedding, reminding me and my forgetful heart how much I admire both the girl she was and the woman she has become. To be there Saturday was an honor: I dressed her, prayed over her, danced with her in the ready room. And then I watched her walk down the aisle and officially tie her heart to Nathan’s.
But the irony of my presence this weekend does not escape me: This is the first time I cannot be there with Morgann, either physically or metaphorically. My heart cannot go where hers is, into a new stage of life as a wife. I’m just not there yet, so it’s easy to feel like she’s going without me. It’s easy to feel like I’m losing my best friend.
But that’s not true. As I lamented on Friday afternoon that she was moving on without me, I collapsed onto my bed and happened to spot some old picture frames that I stored behind it. One was a gift from Morgann, a photo of the two of us on which she had printed a single verse: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
The words tugged at my heart, at that red string that still is in place. It might, actually, be stronger than ever.
Thank God for friends who grow up but never apart.