A Broken Friendship and a God Who Mends Hearts

A Broken Friendship and a God Who Mends Hearts

“..and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” – Col 3:13-14

Suzanne walked into my house January 1982 in a white wool coat, wearing heels, a fashionable paisley print dress, and charming accessories. I was in my mommy uniform of jeans, sweatshirt, sneakers and hoping no baby spit-up completed my outfit.

This friendship will not be a match, I thought. We have nothing in common. She is a business professional and I am a full-time homemaker.

Then she entered our guest room with her overnight bag and came out in jeans, hooded sweatshirt, and sneakers. I smiled.

Okay, now this is showing some potential. I should give it a chance and get to know her.

My husband Michael met Suzanne’s fiancé at our church one Sunday a couple weeks prior to her visit. I had stayed home with our coughing infant daughter that morning. In his usual know-no-stranger manner, he invited Mark home for an evening meal. In my usual not-so-given-to-hospitality manner, I frowned and fussed at his plan since I had prepared a roast with all the trimmings for a noontime dinner. Now I had to spend more hours in the kitchen for a second supper.

Michael explained, “He is a single guy living in a rented room, in a new job and a new city. You know he will love anything you fix so don’t worry. I think you will really like him.”

While devouring (leftover) roast beef sandwiches, salad, and a homemade coconut macaroon pie, Mark entertained us with comical tales of his penny-pinching landlady and cooking with only one allowed stove top burner. He complimented the food several times and made me feel ashamed of my earlier complaints. Later, he offered to show us recent engagement photos. He proceeded to line up twenty proofs that all looked remarkably the same, perfect. Suzanne looked perfect. I felt insecure. I was still working to lose the remaining ten pounds of post-baby weight and not dressing for teaching as I had for years prior to motherhood.

When Suzanne came up for a job interview to Kansas City, Mark asked if she could stay with us. I said yes, but I fretted as the date moved closer.

What would we talk about? How does she feel about babies? Would we be friends?

After changing out of her interview clothes that winter night, Suzanne walked right over to smiling baby Sarah and scooped her up for a snuggle. She asked all the right questions about how we were enjoying our new home and parenthood, both acquired about seven months earlier. Her genuine, easy smile and interest in me began to melt away my reservations.

Our decades of closeness began that very weekend.

When we had one, then two, and even three little ones, Mark and Suzanne made most of the accommodations to come to our house around child-centered schedules. As the years rolled by, our roles reversed. Suzanne became the full-time mother and I was back in the classroom. My older children all baby-sat the Miller boys and were well trained in that role by our friends. While the adults visited and played cards, our combined seven children enjoyed hours of sports and games or reading books to the younger ones.

We built traditions that bound our families like St. Patrick’s Day corned beef dinners, birthday celebrations, New Year’s parties and sleepovers, Christmas cookie bake-offs in November, crazy family football games, and Easter buffets with bunny cakes. We vacationed in Branson, Missouri in adjoining cabins many summers.  Suzanne and I attended Bible studies together, served on Women’s Ministry boards, and traveled to Venezuela on a short term mission trip.

In 1985 we lived for five months in the basement apartment of the Miller’s first home while preparing to move to the East Coast for Michael to attend seminary. During our four-and-a half years in graduate school, they financially supported our meager budget each month. Suzanne visited us in the early, intense homesick days to cheer me.  One summer during the seminary years they arranged for us to spend a glorious vacation week in Branson with them. When we graduated, we returned to the same Midwestern town as our friends and joined the same church.

Our men and children truly enjoyed one another so the interlacing web of relationships was tight for eleven people of various ages for many years. When it looked like the web was coming undone in the early years of 2000 and possibly breaking for good, many pairs of eyes looked on with concern.  Their stares were fixed on Suzanne and me. No one in our families wanted a friendship split.

The struggle unfolded this way. Suzanne and I were both then on staff at the community Christian school where our children attended. She was the Development Director.  After years in the kindergarten classroom, teaching my youngest daughter and three of the four Miller boys in my tenure, I was now their school counselor. Counselors know things in a small school, things students wish their parents did not know. But what if one of those parents was your best friend?

Mark and Suzanne’s oldest son, a handsome and talented young man in sports and most anything he put his effort to, was the cause of our tension. In his growing up, he tried on various personas. Girls and guys thought he was cool and his leadership charisma was obvious. In middle school he chose all the activities and values any of us at the Christian school and church would applaud. Then he entered high school and turned the opposite direction.

If it was my child making these choices, I would want someone to tell me. I would want to know the truth, no matter if it hurt so I could help my child.

These thoughts guided my actions. When her son was mixed up in certain, undesirable activities, I usually chose to tell her privately. These conversations rarely went well and our friendship shifted from intimate to shallow and strained. I eventually stopped engaging in personal conversations to avoid offending her further.

I don’t know how to be her friend anymore. How did this happen to us after so many years?

The pain of our impasse was intense. On more than one night I lay sleepless in my bed, missing my friend. Once in desperation I actually gave her a carefully edited note typed in the wee morning hours. The disconnect remained.

She chose motherhood over friendship with me, I realized with shock, although she never spoke the words.

The four adults met one night to try and figure out how to mend the rift. I tearfully shared my impressions of what was happening. My friend sat silent. Our husbands looked on with forlorn expressions and prayed for us. Before she left my home that night she hugged me close and whispered, I am sorry” in my ear. We continued to connect as families, but less frequently.

Mysteriously, at some point, my friend forgave me. Without much explanation, we began to gradually move back into genuine closeness. My husband and I moved overseas in 2005 for Kingdom service and our friends assumed key roles on our support team, caring for our finances, our house, and our precious semi-launched children that we left behind. Their sacrifice and commitment to us communicated full restoration of our friendship.  Additionally, Suzanne made the grueling, unromantic trip to visit us in Afghanistan during our second year which touched my once-wounded heart deeply.

Lazada PhilippinesToday we live five hours apart and only connect in person a couple times a year. As empty-nesters, we wish for the frequent weekend nights of barbeque and cards like the first years of our friendship. We have each faced personal crises of losing parents to illness, unemployment, and personal health scares. When our families get together, there are additional people now as weddings take place and grandchildren are born.We eat good food, we laugh, we play lots of cards, and we hug one another.

Our hearts are still beautifully laced together and our history blesses both families.

God answered my prayers.  I still have my best friend. He taught me important lessons about grace and forgiveness through the friendship journey with Suzanne. She was right to choose her son over me. I knew that all along. Somehow through our fierce loyalty and strong resolve, we managed to keep both relationships alive through that brief storm.

Her friendship is one of my life’s prized gifts. 

Proverbs 31 WomanIf you enjoyed this story, I’m sure you’ll love this too → Spiritually Grown-Up: Becoming a Real Woman of God.

Proverbs 31 Woman: SHepherding the virtuous woman's heart

Published by gailgoolsby

I have master’s degrees in Professional Counseling and Educational Leadership and over 25 years educational experience as teacher, school counselor, and principal, including the K-12 American school in Kabul, Afghanistan. I place international students with Christian host families in the MidWest. As a writer, speaker, counselor and life coach, I believe there is support and encouragement in God’s Word to help us all Learn to Live Well. My pastor husband and I have been married 40 years and have three grown children, two sons-in-law, and three spunky granddaughters. We live where the wind blows over the prairie in south central Kansas and there really is no place like home.

49 thoughts on “A Broken Friendship and a God Who Mends Hearts

  1. Enjoyed yourstory a lot Gail. It shows we all need to persevere in the path God has laid out for us. Where in KS do you live?

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    1. Dee, Thanks for taking time to read this story! God is good to help us with important relationships in our life and we need His encouragement. We live in Wichita now and love our new home.

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  2. Good to know that you were able to save the friendship. I can relate with this but it was a long story too. As the quote says, “It is really amazing when two strangers become best of friends but it is is really sad when the best of friends become two strangers.”

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    1. Michelle, It is amazing when people whose lives intersect in this big world can become friends, and stay friends through difficult times. I hope you have found a way to continue with your relationship! Blessings! Gail

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  3. I have a few friends that I don’t communicate anymore because of a few misunderstandings that we had in the past. Not that we hate each other. We just felt that it’s better to not get in touch with for now and just let each other be busy with our own lives I hope one day we can still restore the old good friendship.

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    1. Hi Nilyn! (I hope I have your name right!) I hear your heart about your now distant friendships. Keep them in prayer, blessing them and asking for God’s best in their lives. One day there might be an opportunity to reconnect and if your heart is open and available, He could allow your past experiences to add to your future relationships in a powerful way. Hugs, Gail

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  4. Good read Gail, I myself have a best friend since high school, we had a misunderstanding and we didn’t talk for years. We’ve had misunderstandings before when we’re still in high school but it doesn’t usually last for a week. We talk now but not that often. Maybe one of the reasons that we don’t talk to each other that much is that we live far away from each other, good thing there’s social media though, so we talk from there once in a while. We’re good now but not like how we used to be

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    1. Sorry…I hit the wrong key! I was wondering if you might take your friendship to a deeper level by the questions you ask. If your friend is a Believer, she might appreciate someone asking about her faith journey and what God is currently speaking to her or challenging her. If we listen well, and remember what our friends say, it shows great love and brings them closer to us, and hopefully the Lord too! Let me know what you think. Blessings, Gail

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    1. Hi, Rowena, You are right that change happens and relationships are impacted. I think God brings people across our path for certain seasons and we do well to embrace what that means for the time we have them! We all need to learn the art of “being present” to not miss out. Agreed?

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  5. I’ve learned that friendships do change and evolve over time because of certain life changes as well. It really boils down to how we manage that. I’m glad that you were able to work things out with your friend. 🙂

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    1. Managing life transitions is a continual reality, isn’t it? I thank God for the friends He sends to make the journeys with us, even for a short time. Thanks for taking time to read the article and comment.

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    1. True friends are a true treasure, indeed! Those who see our strengths and weaknesses and find it in their hearts to love and accept us, even “speak the truth in love,” are so valuable. I want to be that kind of friend. Thanks for writing!

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  6. I am reminded when me and my bestfriend had a broken relationship in college. We were ok now and we just laugh about it. We still see each other from time to time but I’m still praying that she will also receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Thanks for this inspiring post Gail.

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    1. Great that you still have this connection, even if “loose” at this time. We never know how God uses our “seeds” of relationships for future “harvest.” With technology, it seems we can stay connected much longer than in years past. I hope you continue to smile at the memory and perhaps future times with this friend. Blessings!

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  7. This reminded me with the misunderstandings I had with people I considered best friends. We were able to talk, though. But we’re no longer what we used to. And it’s sad that it looks like I’m the only one who wants to patch things up. I’d rather let them be and just pray that someday everything will be as better as it used to be for us.

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    1. Cheryl, I hear your heart that misses what once was between you and these friends. I have lots of former “flowers from my friendship garden” that I miss too. I hope I have honored them and what we shared by blooming and growing into an even better, more determined friend in my new gardens. Bless you!

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  8. Reminded me of my childhood friend whom I’ve become estranged with ever since she moved houses back in high school. What I’ve learned from this is that people’s surroundings and their circumstances in life somehow change them into someone different from who you used to know. And because of that, rifts on friendship appear. Then again, if your friendship is deeply rooted, it will always find a way to mend the broken bonds. This is a nice read, Gail! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words! We all do grow and change and rarely do we find friends committed to sticking through mutual changes that might disappoint or confuse the relationship that “was fine” before. Maybe the friendship will return, but maybe not. We can release, forgive, and find others hungry for our friendship. They are out there, aren’t they!?

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  9. Wow this is such a well-written account. I was thinking of only one person while reading this – my college best friend – and how our friendship kind of died a silent death a couple of years ago. I’m hoping for it to be mended, too!

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    1. Maan, I was thinking of the “silence” of your friendship parting. With such technology available, maybe you can break the silence and speak a blessing over your past friend. Sometimes a former student of mine finds me on Facebook or emails me with just a note of appreciation or remembrance of our time together. It totally makes me smile and maybe tear up just a bit to think someone honored me with such kindness. It may not restore a full friendship, but you could give a precious small gift of love to that person. What do you think?

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  10. Friends are a true blessing. Friendships need nourishment, love, protection, understanding and everything in between. It’s like marriage that you must commit into if you want it to blossom into full bloom.

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    1. So true! Often friends can help us see our blind spots and become better people. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment!

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  11. I’m so glad that you were able to mend your friendship with Suzanne. It’s such a rare gift, what you have with each other. I have yet to find a family friend like that.

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    1. Cheanne, Don’t give up! Prov 18:24 says that to have friends, we must FIRST be friendly. So be that kind of person and watch the promise come true. Another verse that adds confidence is Gal 6:7 which tells us the kind of “seed” we sow will yield that exact kind of harvest. This is a truth in nature and follows in relationships too. Lord Jesus, I ask for Cheanne to see Your guidance in developing friendships that look to You as the source and can be a gift in her life. We trust You in this request…Amen!

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    1. Joy, I agree with you and love what God gave to both of us. It was worth any pain and struggle. Not all my friendships have a happy ending, like many people. I accept that and don’t dwell on the negative aspects, but learn any lessons God shows me and move forward. With this friend, I am able to rejoice and treasure the rare gift. Thanks for reading and writing a comment.

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  12. Such an inspiring story! I’m glad to hear that you were able to mend your friendship. My bestfriend and I do not see things eye to eye and we’ve had our share of misunderstandings. In the end, we always find a way to restore our friendship. She works in Maldives while I’m here in the Philippines so we don’t see each other that much too.

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    1. Aren’t you glad for technology that brings faraway friends closer? Skype and Facetime and all the other options allow us to “see” our important people and keep us connected. When friends have shared history, even distance and extra effort is worth the work! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  13. True friendship will always be tested and when it is, it’s just a way to make your relationship grow stronger no matter how far or near you may be from each other.

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    1. Yes! No one likes tests, but after persevering through, we gain a new level of understanding if we take time to reflect and let it “file” into our wisdom storage unit. Relationships give us a place for God to refine us. Thanks for writing!

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  14. Real friends are really hard to find! You’re very lucky to have them! In this world, it really pays a lot of efforts and tests to know who are true most especially behind your back. My ultimate rule towards friendship – “be honest and genuine”! Glad I have few who are really true which what matters the most and will be treasured forever 🙂

    Such an inspiring story 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂

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    1. Jing, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! It is a blessing to have friends who travel the life journey with us and make our history richer from their involvement. I try to have much grace for my friends, even when I am disappointed in something because I know I fall short of being a perfect friend much of the time too. I have suffered betrayal and mysterious ending of friendships like everyone, but I keep my eyes and heart open to new ones (or maybe a returning one!)

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    1. How wonderful to find a satisfying friendship with your husband. God has blessed you. I would just add that godly girlfriends can help us actually be better wives! If we put too much expectation on our marriage relationship, it can press it down. Having selected women in our lives who will point us toward God’s standards in our behaviors but also allow for our momentary rants and failings can relieve our poor men from having to understand some of the mysteries of womanhood. Does that make sense? Keep praying and looking for the right friends to add into your life. Thanks for writing!

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  15. Friendship is such a beautiful gift from God. And it will grow beautifully if we value and give it time and our heart. God must have a purpose for broken friendships and I always believe those instances that we lose our friends is just a way for us to realize their worth and presence. Time heals and God mends.

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    1. Berlin, How true! If we ask God to teach us about broken relationships, I believe He is faithful to help us learn and heal our hurts. Sometimes our lessons are for future challenges coming our way. I think He never wastes life experiences but uses them to help us move toward a better version of ourselves and bring glory to Him. Close relationships are able to round out our rough edges, right? 🙂

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  16. Such a wonderful read. This reminds me of my dear friend for 10 years now, we had a misunderstanding that we didn’t talk for 2 years. I can’t remember how we mend but we became best of friends now. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Yay for reconciliation! Glad you kept your heart open to forgive and reconnect. That can be hard, but the prize is valuable. Cherish your friend and enjoy!

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    1. Edel, thanks for reading and writing a comment! It is a blessing to have a true friend and keeping our hearts open through forgiveness is key. I just had the chance to spend a long weekend with my friend in this story, and we had a wonderful time, making additional memories. Blessings to you!

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  17. Real friends are treasures and are one of God’s greatest blessings. We are lucky to find some of them in one lifetime. It is heartbreaking to fall apart but, indeed, the Lord will find a way to reconnect your hearts and mend your relationships.

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  18. Thanks for reading the piece and making a comment here. The Lord is the great friendship connector and sustainer if we follow His wisdom. Friends enrich our lives for sure. Blessings to you!

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