For I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it
There are some friendships that a person can invest years into only to have them fall by the wayside in a ,matter of weeks or days. Then there are other friendships forged in a matter of months that prove to last despite years of apartness.
Beverly and I met during such a time in both of our lives – our 8th grade year at Arnold Junior High in Columbus, Georgia. She remembers the exact moment we met. She saw me sitting by myself in the lunch room and decided that very minute that she was the friend I needed.
She was right.
I was new to the neighborhood and this was my first year at Arnold. She was new, too, and even though I was totally oblivious to it at the time, she was in a much more precarious living situation than any child should ever be. Back then, I knew very little about her home life. She knew very little about mine. Live and learn, some say, but even the youngest of children can catch on right quick that home isn’t the safest place to be – school is.
Beverly and I were not the kind of girlfriends who spent time at each other’s homes. Our homes weren’t conducive to slumber parties or Saturday pedicures. Besides Beverly spent nearly every weekend singing in the bars around Columbus.
The girl could belt out a song. Her big dream was to become a country-western star in Nashville.
I remember being shocked the first time Beverly told me she sang at bars . Not that I wasn’t used to bars, but because I was used to them. Mama spent more than a fair share of her time in them. I wondered why kind of momma Beverly had, encouraging her daughter to sing at such places? But Beverly’s family wasn’t the church-going type, so the church choir wasn’t an option and the local VFW Hall was. Even though she was older by a year than any of the rest of us 8th-graders, 14 seemed far too young to be on the bar circuit in Columbus, Georgia.
She moved off before the school year finished out, Beverly did. Moved to Mississippi with her elusive momma and a slew of siblings. Unstable families move frequently. Beverly had been in a dozen schools by that time. There were no cell phones. No Facebook. No Twitter. No instant anything other than jello pudding and Maxwell House coffee. She came back once – for the Spring dance. I was so excited, Beverly swears I hollered so loudly the music stopped. We had a good time that night and then just as quickly as she appeared in my life, Beverly disappeared.
I never heard from her again. Over the years of our apartness, I wondered if she ever made it to Nashville, if she ever became that star she dreamed of being.
Whenever I asked anyone from Arnold what became of Beverly, most had no idea who I was talking about.
I thought she would be lost to me forever. Until a few months ago, when lo and behold, she sent me a message on Facebook. I didn’t recognize her at first. She’d gone through a name change. Beverly was a name she left behind, she told me when we spoke by phone. Then Hurricane Irma came roaring up through Florida and Georgia, pushing Beverly and I into the same geographic circle for the first time since junior high. And that’s how we came to be sitting across from each other at the Cracker Barrel, sipping coffee – me, not her – and swapping the stories of the lives we have lived.
Some people search their whole lives long for grace and never do locate it, while others seem to wear grace in a locket around their necks. Like some sort of magical charm, that locket of grace enables them to press on in the midst of hurricanes unnamed.
Beverly never made it to that dream career in Nashville. She was too busy putting her head down and walking headlong into life, convinced all the while that whatever her future held, it had to be so much better than the past she’d already lived through.
A past I only learned about as we sat at Cracker Barrel getting caught up on the decades done gone by.
There is a line in the new novel – perhaps the most important of lines in the entire book – God is good.
Beverly’s life is a testament to the goodness of God in spite of the awfulness of mankind.
That she still finds reason to sing in the midst of all that she has endured is a testament to the goodness of her own stout heart.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of CHRISTIAN BEND ( Mercer University Press).