Enjoy this devotional from FlourishWriters student Sarah de Orlando
It all began with the chicken. I had bought the thighs at a market around the corner from my flat and marinated them for my new paleo diet. My coworker, Katie, somehow convinced me to try this meal plan with her. How would I survive without sugar? Beans? Cheese? Oatmeal? On top of living in a foreign country?
A knock interrupted my wallowing. “Hey! I’m early for movie night downstairs,” Katie stood with her hiking pants, brown hair pulled into a ponytail, hot pink rain jacket, and a smile that radiated brighter than her coat. “Sure, come in!” I motioned toward my kitchen.
I had been desperately lonely the past eight weeks in Poland, settling into my new engineering role and being away from my husband. I often sobbed in bed, begging God to take away my loneliness and sustain me. But Katie didn’t know that; I had put on a brave face for everyone. Besides, I’m an introvert. I wasn’t looking for a friend.
“That smells amazing!” Katie followed the scent to the burnt orange and gold striped kitchen. I shifted on my feet, “Um, do you want to have . . .?” She plopped down at the table before I could finish.
“Oh. My. Goodness. This tastes like KFC!” Katie said as she cut into the chicken thigh. The timer rang. “Yum. Roasted cauliflower!” she commented as I set it on the stovetop. I glanced out my window at the blossoming horse chestnut tree as my eyes widened. Those veggies are supposed to be part of my lunch tomorrow. But she doesn’t know that. Should I share? Do I have to share? Maybe I should, I don’t want to hurt her feelings. I gave us both a steaming pile of florets with more chicken. “How about we do this every night?” Katie said between mouthfuls. Later, in the brick-arched room with wrought iron chandeliers, she bragged to our coworkers as the movie began. “Sarah made the best chicken ever!”
I never had a consistent friend growing up. Sure, I had been married to Andrés for five years, but that was a different relationship. A childhood friend once said, “I keep asking you to come out and play, but you are always watching TV.” For decades, I didn’t like my own company, nor did I know how to be a good friend. But God began challenging those beliefs by sending this bubbly, Northern California girl, who practically invited herself into my life.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 (NIV)
What if I’m not a good friend? What if my flat is too messy or my cooking is terrible? What if I have nothing to say? Somehow God helped lessen my fears as my friendship with Katie blossomed. We laughed, walked in the rain, found sea glass, rescued kittens, cooked, learned Polish, and ate (a lot). We were together like Polish pork and cabbage: a daily staple that always complemented one another.
“You’ve got this! Go, go, go!” Our friendship made pushing through hard days almost easy. CrossFit rounds with seventy-five pull-ups after seventy-five burpees were a thrill. “Dinner at my house tonight?” Katie asked, wiping sweat from her brow and adjusting her pink knee-high socks. “Of course, you’ve got the bigger kitchen, and besides, you have my stockpot.” We shared what we had, and it was more than enough.
Something in my spirit shifted. We spent so much time together I started to believe I could be myself and be accepted, even loved by a friend. Looking back, I see that God sent me Katie to receive his love through her and return it by just being myself.
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:10–12 (NIV)
My role in Poland ended after eight adventurous months. Katie and I clung to each other the stormy night of my departure. We ate goose pierogi under the brick arches, took photos with Stella, the rescue cat, and exchanged cards. Raindrops wept with me down the shuttle’s windows as I drove away. “Goodbye, sweet friend.”
That evening, alone in my hotel, I dared to open Katie’s note: “Keep Bible studying, keep sea glass hunting. Keep adventuring . . .” She got me.
It’s a beautiful parallel to my relationship with Jesus—he calls us his friends in John 15. He wants us to know his heart, spend time with him, abide in his love, and delight in his presence. Why? Because he loves us. Papa God helped me understand Jesus’ love more deeply by walking through daily life with Katie. I stopped trying to prove myself; I was loved just by being me. And Jesus understands me even more: what delights me, frustrates me, my quirks, my past, my dreams. He gets me.
We often experience and share Jesus’ love in the context of friendship. God knew I couldn’t hide in fear forever, believing no one could love the real me. No, Jesus invited me to experience unconditional love and companionship, and that started with being myself and choosing to let another person into my life. Can you recall a season in your life when God showed up for you through a friend?
Maybe you’re in a season of deep loneliness, and you’re asking God for comfort. What if the neighbor next door or the cashier at your favorite café feels the same way? Don’t freak out and close your browser on me. Instead, pray, show up, and say, “Hi, I’ve seen you around, and I’d love to get coffee. How about Tuesday?” Let Jesus’ love guide the rest.
Sarah de Orlando is an author, speaker, and the Chief-Hope-Giver of Sarah de Orlando Coaching. She bravely left her engineering career after an encounter with Jesus in Poland revealed her true purpose: to live rooted in Jesus’ love and lavish it on others. Her passion is to coach women to discover and embrace their vibrant journey with him. Sarah and her college sweetheart, Andrés, have one super-cute daughter. In her downtime, you can find Sarah hiking through forests or beachcombing for sea glass. She released her debut memoir, Love Letters from Poland, in 2021. Follow her on Instagram @sarahdeorlando.