This week a chapter of my life is coming to a close and I sense a new one on the horizon. When Kevin and I first began visiting Third Avenue Baptist Church (where we are now members), one of the first couples we met was Brad and Erin Wheeler. They greeted us with a cheerful, sunny “hello” and I remember thinking that they seem like people with whom we could become good friends. They were really the first two people I had met in Louisville who reminded me of Mississippians…warm, hospitable and ready to hug you the first time they meet you! A few months later, once we became members of Third, Brad asked Kevin if he wanted to start meeting regularly for discipleship and Erin did the same with me. At the time, she was God’s lifeline to me. I struggled so much through our first year in Louisville…the transition of a new place, being a seminary student, being newly married and the cold, dreary winter were almost more than my 24-year old self could handle. Erin faithfully walked with me as I battled depression, constantly lifting me up to the Father and pointing me to the Truth.
Over the next six years, the Wheelers became our very best friends, so much so that they feel more like family and the word “friend” just doesn’t hold enough meaning for how special these two people are to us. We spent numerous holidays together, held each other’s babies as they entered this world, enjoyed some of the best date nights, carried each other’s burdens as God’s hand was heavy upon both of our families at different times and rejoiced in God’s faithful mercy and love through it all. Brad’s constant wisdom and direct confrontation at times has shaped Kevin into a sensitive husband and a discerning shepherd for our family. Erin opened her whole life and heart to me and God used the witness of her life to mold me into the wife and mother I am today. Their children are dear to our children (and to me!), especially our Molly Kate and their “Sizie” (nickname for Eliza). We have never taken for granted how wonderful it is to have friends where the husbands treasure one another as much as the wives and the added bonus of how much our children enjoy time spent together. All of eternity will not be long enough to thank God for this family and the way the Lord has used them in our lives to refine our faith over and over.
This morning we stood beside our friends as they loaded up their van with the last remaining belongings and with tears pouring, waved good-bye as they headed to their new home in Washington, D.C. Brad will be on staff at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and they will begin a new chapter of their lives and ministry. All of my heart and soul has been dreading this day and the closing of this most sweet and precious chapter of my life. So far, the day has passed my expectations in terms of sadness. I am going to miss my friend so very much and my heart breaks every time I try to picture my daily life without the Wheelers. I know the Lord moved us to Louisville to prepare us for a life of full-time ministry and this family was one of the greatest tools in that preparation. As they depart, I sense it is time for Kevin and I to step forward and see where the Lord might call us to pour out our lives. In some ways, I feel like the time has come for us to stand on our own two feet and that the Lord must think we are finally ready as He removes this family that has been such a rock for us. Its scary and hard and exciting and sad all at the same time.
I challenge you to pray that the Lord would gift you such a friendship and then when He does, pursue it with all of your might. The Wheeler/Cuthbertson friendship to me represents exactly the beauty of the body of Christ that is so often portrayed in the New Testament. To encourage each other as long as it is called today, to bear each other’s burdens, to rejoice in our trials, to be unified in spirit, mind and purpose, to forebear with one another and forgive each other, to love as Christ loved…we did all of this and more, and I am more like Christ today because of these two people in our life. Beg the Lord to bless you with such a friendship…I have known few things sweeter in this life.