God hears prayers. I was reminded of that.
He may not always answer. As I told friends recently after seeing the movie Contagion, I feel sometimes as if I'm pounding on a cold stone door three feet thick, that the mail's not running, no messages are getting through, and the gate is barred behind me as I leave the grounds dejectedly....but he hears. I've had answers given before, one of them hand-delivered with a crystal-clear rebuke. So I leave my request parceled on the doorstep, tape a sign to the door, come back and rattle the doorknob occasionally, call out a resounding Hello! that echoes back to me in a thousand different tones of perplexity, frustration, reverence and inquiry. Then I shuffle down the path to keep my neglected patience company, peering over my shoulder in hopes of catching a glimpse of God.
My dear friend Camille's move to a different state last week reminded me of answers given. In saying goodbyes, her husband mentioned how fortunate it was that we had all met in the social hall of our church one Sunday seven years ago.
"I was praying very hard for friends then," I replied passionately.
That is absolutely true, though perhaps pathetic. When I met Camille, I had no friends in this dusty town to talk to. I was raising two fresh whippersnappers; I needed support, fellow women to converse with about my experiences, to share advice, laughter, tears.
Of course, God helps those who help themselves, so when I saw my opportunity, I pounced on it. Literally and not gracefully, I'm embarrassed to say. I saw Camille, elegantly-dressed and with a kind, friendly face, and I heard her mention to an older couple that she sang in a touring opera company. The words had barely escaped and the couple had hardly a chance to acknowledge them when I sprang toward her like a lonely Jack-in-the-box. With wide-eyed desperation, I exclaimed lamely but passionately, "I love opera!"
Another person would have given me a short response, a false smile and turned away, but Camille, though a little startled, chatted with me and gave me a card with her cell phone number, telling me we could get coffee sometime.
It would be a long while before we got that coffee, but we began to greet each other with a smile and pleasantries whenever we met. A few months later, after a Mom's Group I had started in our parish began to blossom (and bless me with the friendship of several lovely, intelligent women), I saw Camille walking out of church as we were waiting to baptize our little girl. She was pregnant. I congratulated her warmly.
"Did you ever start that Mom's Group?" she asked eagerly.
The rest of the story is history, as they say. Since that first Mom's Group meeting to which she brought her infant son and for seven years now we have watched each other's children grow. We have shared faith, tea, countless pastries (we both have a compulsive baking disorder, though hers often yields mind-numbingly yummy results), and time with friends. We have talked about sleep deprivation, nursing, beautiful moments of parental bliss, mommy regrets, history, our personal artistic endeavors, and, of course, God. I could always talk long to my friend about God, and in doing so feel that she truly was a friend given to me through faith. Camille and I became such good friends these past several years, and however it may sound to an outsider, I believe we were both in the social hall that day because God knew we could.
Now that we no longer live close, I find myself unusually grateful for a world that is riddled with cellphones and bubble-gummy social media.
And even though today she's a thousand plus miles to the northwest, even though I've recently felt as if I were prowling outside God's gate in the dark waiting for some guidance, I can reflect with gratitiude on the friendship I was given and remember through it the prayers that are answered.