It was still dark outside when I heard it. The gentle cooing of the dove woke me from my sleep. I turned over and hoped the bird would fly away, but then…it cooed again. In that instant, God reminded me of my childhood friend. I listened, breath held, waiting for the coo again. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I got up and stumbled to the kitchen to make coffee.
My very first friend, Alyssa, was a little girl who lived across the street from me. Her front yard was overgrown with trees and shrubs and her house was set far back from the road. Alyssa first appeared at the edge of her property one Saturday many years ago. She didn’t say a word and shyly waved at me and before I could say hell-o, she disappeared into the overgrown shrubs and massive trees in her yard, which I always referred to as “the secret garden.”
Then, she showed up again the next Saturday. She was holding a garden hose and we both realized we were doing the same chore! Our Saturday chore was watering the trees in our front yards. We giggled when we held up our respective hoses and shrugged our shoulders in that “woe is me” kind of way of most children who are required to complete their weekly chores.
Alyssa was loving, kind and gentle and I considered her my first friend after I arrived at the house we lived in. I had come from a foster home setting and I really didn’t trust very many people. Alyssa was different but we seemed to have a common bond that went beyond watering trees!
She reminded me of a deer, with her big brown eyes. The children at school often teased her because of the clothes she wore. She never said anything, but I recognized her hurt feelings, just by looking into her big doe-like eyes. I decided it was my job, as her friend, to defend her when she was picked on or teased.
There was a deep sorrow or perhaps it was shame, that Alyssa carried. It wasn’t until much later in her life that I discovered the secret garden with the house in the shadow of the large trees, was where shame was hiding. One day, she told me her mother drank a lot and fell down on the floor because she always had a bottle in her hand and her mom “got mean” when she drank. I told her before I went into a foster home, my mother had been mean too, and she drank a lot too. Alyssa looked at me with hope in her eyes for the very first time. After that, we were inseparable! We were first friends AND best friends!
We conspired together and decided that instead of doing our weekly chore, we would play instead! One Saturday I went to her yard and the next, she would cross the road and come into my yard. We even had a secret code to contact each other when it was time to play. We called out with the coo of a dove and if the other one responded with the same signal, then it was time to play! I knew my best friend would be there when I heard the call of the dove. It was time to meet my friend on the edge of the yard so we could giggle and laugh and tease each other until we laughed so hard we fell over. Sometimes, we tried to spray each other with the hose on those hot summer days. I loved getting together with my best friend!
The aroma of coffee filled my kitchen as the sun peeked over the horizon. Fresh cup poured, cream added…time to read my morning devotional. And then, I heard it again, the gentle coo of a dove. It was time to whisper and share the secrets of my heart with Jesus. I smiled as I sensed him calling me to the couch as He said, “Let’s spend time together today, we can laugh and play and know that we will always be best friends!”