“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Have you ever met someone that you weren’t sure you liked at first? I’m terrible about making snap judgements about people and while I have good intuitions the majority of the time, sometimes I am just way off base. Not necessarily because I saw something in them I didn’t like, but because something about them reminds me of myself or the fact that I’m not perfect.

When I first met Cathy, I almost immediately built up a wall.

She was opinionated, outspoken, and liked to talk. And as I look back on it now, I know that I put that wall up for several reasons. For one, all of those qualities I just mentioned? Remind you of anyone? Ahem, yes….sometimes when we meet someone with some of our own qualities, it can be a little intimidating.

But that wasn’t all. You see, Cathy is a stunningly beautiful woman. In fact, I would say that she is one of the most gorgeous women I have ever met. And when I met her, I was in one of the most physically and spiritually insecure times of my life. I was newly married for the 2nd time, and joining a church of new people for the first time as an adult. I just didn’t think we were going to hit it off.

She was so nice to me. And, being the insecure, jaded individual that I was (and still am a lot of times) I wondered what in the world this woman could possibly want by being so aggravatingly welcoming and friendly. I mean, if we were in high school, she’d be the pretty, popular one, and I’d be the awkward, geeky one. This is actually how I felt when I first met her. Her beauty was threatening to me.

As time went on, Cathy and I worked together on various projects at church. She was a natural leader, and my insecurities began to give way to admiration and respect. But while I considered us “church friends”, I didn’t really consider us “close friends.”

And then she started a women’s Bible study group, and about 5 or 6 of us met up once a week to study, talk, and pray. (And eat, the woman is an AMAZING cook!) I look back on those weekly meetings with strong fondness, because it was there that I began to really start letting down my walls, not only with Cathy, but with other people in my life, and with God. We shared a lot, that small group of women and I. We grew together, and prayed together, and encouraged each other not only in our weekly meetings, but throughout the week.

But, as things do eventually, they changed. For one reason or another, most of us left that little church and found, or are finding, our spiritual homes elsewhere. Some of us stay in touch, and Cathy and I have remained close friends.

It’s interesting. I used to think “close friends” were the kind that talked every day, hung out every weekend, and could remember each other’s birthday without Facebook reminding them. But I’ve come to understand that some of our closest friends in life are the ones we DON’T see all the time, but when you do, it’s like no time has passed at all. There’s an easiness and familiarity that is always there. That’s the kind of friend I have in Cathy.

You see, what I didn’t know about her when we first met was this: as threatening as I found her personality and beauty, spiritually – we were destined to become bonded. And in that bond I began to see that Cathy’s true beauty was not in her appearance, but in her heart. Because she loves God. She loves Jesus. And she has never pretended to be anything that she’s not. From the first time I heard her share her heart, she has always been honest about her flaws, her struggles.

Over the last few years of our friendship, I see where each of us has spiritually grown. We don’t get to sit down and visit as often as we’d like, but just like when we used to meet for Bible study, every time we get together, I feel as though I’ve been “sharpened”. And she probably doesn’t know that. She probably thinks that when we had lunch yesterday, I just listened to her vent about her life.

She probably doesn’t realize that even when I’ve seen her at her most broken, that is when I have seen her at her most beautiful. And I think that’s how her Heavenly Father sees her. Beautifully broken. Someone who lives their life authentically and doesn’t hide the fact that they’d be a mess without the grace of God. Someone who, despite all that life has thrown at them, has not only kept their faith, but grown in it. Someone who has a true and willing spirit to follow Jesus, even when it’s really, really hard.

I’m thankful for friends like Cathy. Friends that sharpen and refine me, encourage me not only with their words, but by sharing their struggles and reminding me what true beauty looks like: an honest and surrendering heart for Christ. Even when they’ve been to hell and back.

I didn’t think Cathy could be more beautiful to me than when we first met, but now that I really know her, she’s breathtaking.