Friends Help Us See the Empty Tomb

It is the Easter season. The news of the empty tomb is still settling.

If we were in real time certainly the early followers of Christ are still trying to make sense of this. It's got me wondering about what role friendship may have played in the initial days, weeks and months following the news of the resurrection. How did the friendships between disciples sustain them during this time of adjustment?

For example, even after Thomas saw and touched the risen Christ for himself did he still get random moments of doubt? Did he ever have to go to Peter or John and say, "That was real right? We're not crazy."

Did Peter or John ever have to respond, "Yeah, Tom. It was real. I know it's hard to believe but it was real." And then was that reassurance from a close and trusted friend enough to keep Thomas faithful and active one day at a time? What about Peter?

Even after the risen Christ openly forgave him the three denials did he ever wake up tempted to wallow in sorrow and self-disappointment? Did Thomas ever say to him, "Pete, you need to let it go. You messed up but quit dwelling on it. Jesus forgave you. What more do you want?"

What about the followers who did not get to see the risen Christ? Who convinced them it was true? What relationships helped sustain and build the early faith lives of Christians? This is what I've been thinking about this week.

Every now and then I am reminded that friendship is an essential part of living a life of faith. Being a faithful friend, like anything else, is not always easy. There are times when all we may want is a friend to wallow with us in our feelings of doubt, frustration or hopelessness. But a faithful friend doesn't sit with us in those spaces indefinitely. A faithful friend reminds us in due time that the tomb is empty.

A faithful friend assures us that if we leave the burial site together their own faith and hope can be enough for two for a while. A faithful friend sometimes just helps us leave the cemetery. Even when the temptation might be to simply leave you there by yourself.

My experience of friendship has taught me that God works wonders through such relationships.

It has taught me to sniff out these friendships for traces of God when I lose track of the holy scent on my own. When I lose hope I turn to Winnie to bear hope for me. I know she can be entrusted with that burden. When I question my discernment and God's guidance I turn to Lisa. She reminds me of God's work in the history of my life.

And there are times when life's circumstances threaten to dab out the droplets of belief that I've managed to squeeze from the dew of a new morning. I turn to Melissa. She is not afraid of a doubting Christian.

Faithful friends help sustain and strengthen our lives of faith. They understand that in friendship we take turns bearing the weight of faith, hope and love. They stay by our proverbial beds when all we can do is pick at them for not having the right things to say. They remind us that the tomb is empty when that mere suggestion could threaten the friendship. They believe in us more than we believe in ourselves sometimes. They see us not only as we are but for what we could be.

They call us to mine for joy, to cheesily count our blessings, to remember that life is to be lived, to face our fears, and to walk, run, or limp our way towards another new day.

This Easter season as we are called to celebrate and rejoice maybe we can celebrate the friends who sustain us in faith.

Enuma Okoro writes from Raleigh, N.C. Her latest book is "Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert's Search for Spiritual Community." Visit her website.

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