I was excited.
“Red Hair is coming! Red Hair is coming!” I chanted over and over.
Four days after we were married my husband, Chris, and I packed up a smallish sized U-haul van and moved to Charlotte, NC. We lived in Charlotte for four years, and while we were there God brought a host of special friends into our lives. One of these friends was Steven, who we affectionately call Red Hair, and his lovely wife, Rachel.
When we first met Steven and Rachel they, too, were newlyweds and had just moved into our apartment complex. We invited them to dinner, to church, to Bible study and in no time at all a friendship was forged.
Together we walked through trials, and heartaches, and loss. We ate together, laughed (a lot) together, and cried together too. We got dogs together, then babies.
When the time came for us to leave Charlotte and relocate to Northern Virginia one of the hardest good-byes we experienced was in the hugs, tears, and whispers of “Don’t worry, we’ll visit soon,” that were solemnly shared between us.
Eight years, three moves, and six children have filled our lives since that tearful good-bye. While living in Virginia, Chris and I visited as often as we could but when we eventually moved to Michigan our visits became few and far between.
Instead of dinner, church and Bible study our relationship, these days, is kept alive through cards, emails, and talks on the phone. Our last visit with Steven and Rachel came in the summer of 2011, almost three years ago.
And then it happened: A fateful call from Steven lit up my phone.
“Steven?” I said in disbelief.
“Hey, are ya’ll going to be home this weekend?”
“Yeeesss,” I dragged out the word, wondering, hoping. “Are you coming to Michigan?”
“Yeah boy,” Steven said. I could hear the smile in his voice.
Steven’s work was flying him to Detroit to train with another employee. His plan was to fly in Sunday afternoon, rent a car, drive two hours to our house, spend the evening, then drive two hours back to Detroit where he’d be needed for work on Monday.
It would take a lot of effort on his part but this was a visit none of us were willing to miss.
“Don’t tell Chris,” Steven said. “I’d like to surprise him.”
“I won’t breathe a word. See you Sunday,” I said and set down the phone.
The squealing and jumping ensued. I felt like I’d won the lottery. I had won the lottery…Red Hair was coming!
When Steven arrived on Sunday he came with a bottle of red wine for me and a six pack of Two Hearted Ale for Chris. It was a throwback to our time in Charlotte, and coming from Steven it was perfect.
For hours we talked and laughed. The only thing missing was Rachel and the kids. We ate pizza, told stories, and shared memories that never grow old. We basked in the joy of friendship, in the warmth of a forever friend.
When Steven left we were sad to see him go. We invited him back with implicit instructions to bring his family next time, and thanked him again and again for coming. It’s hard to say good-bye when your next hello is a question mark but as we watched our red-haired friend get in his car and drive away all we could feel was thankful for the time we’d shared together.
“God did this just for me,” Chris said. “Out of all the people in Steven’s company they picked him to fly to Michigan. This wasn’t a coincidence. This was God.”
I know Chris was right. After experiencing our share of broken relationships and friendships gone haywire, this visit from Steven reminded us that friendships do last, that there are those who remain closer than a brother.
For years we’ve had a long running joke with Steven. After he unknowingly snubbed Chris at party we teased him and coined the phrase “Red Hair don’t care!” But when Chris opened the door to Steven’s broad grin all he could say through his shock and surprise was, “Red Hair DOES care!”
As I washed out my bottle of red wine a few days after Steven’s visit I couldn’t help but remember how good it was to see him. I decided to keep that bottle. I placed it in our room, a reminder of what God did for Chris and me by bringing Steven to Michigan, by bringing him into our lives.
Friends like Steven and Rachel are more than just friends. They are an expression of God’s heart for relationship. They are an expression of God’s heart for us.
They are a reminder that Red Hair does care…
…and that God cares too.