It is not a mystery to many of you that my best friend of 13 years past away in the summer of 2016 at the age of 21. I have been wanting to write about our friendship for years now but I just couldn’t quite put the words down. I didn’t want it to be a sad story. I wanted it to point to Christ because after all, her whole life was about pointing everyone she could to the beauty of The Creator. I could go on and on about the ways she was absolutely amazing but that would all be summarized in the fact that she was was a true Godly friend.
Hannah Elizabeth Russell never gave up on people. We met in Sunday School at the age of 7. She only attended that church for a short while before moving to a church that was closer to where she lived but let me tell you, 7 year old Hannah would call me every single day. We only knew each other for 6 months and I knew that every day at 4:30pm She was going to give me a call. We did this until we were 12 years old and got our own cellphones. There were times that I wouldn’t text back, call back, or hang out with her and she would still reach out. I always felt like such an awful friend but she would just encourage me and hang on to me. I really didn’t know it then, but I needed her.
Through High School when I was causing trouble, she was always there to listen and give a firm, yet loving opinion. When we were together we had the best times. Plus, we would have these deep conversations about God’s unfailing love for us and things we were struggling with. We would pray for one another and almost always ended the night with a good High School Musical sing-along. Hannah loved me like God loves his people. Unwavering and never ending no matter what.
Sometimes as a friend you can feel as though you are growing apart from one another. Like you no longer have the same values. and before you know it, it has been months and you haven’t caught up or even sent a Snapchat. In many ways our faith is like this. I know I have felt like I have grown apart and grown out of my relationship with God. But the beautiful thing about God is that he never stops caring, calling, or loving. God is the perfect friend. He is a listener, guider, and unwavering presence. I notice when I have felt like he hasn’t heard me or that he is far, it isn’t because he has been silent, but instead I have ignored his calls and stopped reaching out to him.
I always knew Hannah was the better friend. No, she wasn’t perfect, but she really molded her life after Christ and loved people like she was loved by her heavenly father. Hannah changed a lot of people’s lives through her faith. I always looked up to her and still do. After her passing I was really challenged to be a better friend.
There are times with friends that you are giving 90% and they are giving 10%. As someone who has been that 10% giver I have chosen that with people, no matter what, I am not giving up. I will continue to love them, invite them, and be there. Love shouldn’t be conditional. It’s this idea that no matter what, I am there. No, I don’t do this perfectly but remembering the importance that Hannah was to me and the way she loved me like God loves me without ever stopping is something that I hold close and keep in mind.
This has pushed me to be a better representation of the love that is found through our Christ and Savior, Jesus.