Basma flew into my life with the flurry of a woman in a hurry, bursting through the door of the cramped apartment with a jovial smile and a bounding step.  She took me by surprise with her warmth and interest in me, her astonished pronouncement that I was “just like them,” and her over-and-above hospitality in the form of kisses, gifts, calls, tea, meals, favors, and insight.

In addition to Basma’s generosity, she took my need to learn Arabic seriously and tried to teach me every chance she got.  The word for “different” I learned from Basma, as we discussed differences in our beliefs.  She taught me suhkeena, the word for tranquil or restful, as she described how she hopes to keep her home for her husband.  It was in a phone conversation with Basma that I first learned the Arabic phrase Intatharick (I will be waiting for you), something Basma said in anticipation of my visit.  Later, she told me there is no English equivalent for this one word.  It connotes the sentiment of refusing to leave one’s physical position until the expected one comes and can be given the hospitality and welcome he or she deserves.  It stirs up a feeling of complete fidelity to another, along with great expectation and longing to see him or her.

That phrase does describe how dedicated Basma was to me, her newly-adopted friend whom she took under her wing like a mother hen.  She became my biggest fan, introducing me proudly to her other friends, describing who I was while warmly holding on to my arm.  Teaching me to cook savory dishes, confiding in me about her miscarriage, sharing my deep concern for my son when he was sick—in all these things she was the picture of a faithful friend.  When my mother and sister visited, she was the first to organize a party for them, later insisting on giving them farewell gifts.

Last summer, though, a single event set in motion a wind of change that blew into the friendship I had with Basma.  When a mutual friend rejected my heartfelt gift of a New Testament, word spread quickly that I could be dangerous.  Although we did not have a sudden fallout, after Basma heard the rumor a gradual waning took place as she tried to make sense of my actions.  I began to gather from her sparse communication, polite-yet-terse interactions, and failure to reciprocate, that the closeness once felt, warm and bright as a winter hearth, had grown cold and black.  Only a few smoking coals remained, glowing softly in the dark.

My heart has typically risen and fallen on the crests and valleys of the affection and acceptance of others, and this falling out of favor with Basma affected me enormously.  At one point in the fall, it capsized me to the point that I stayed inside most days, dreading that I might see her or someone else privy to the situation.  There were glimmers of hope that not all was lost—a good conversation where we reiterated our care for one another, a concerned phone call to check up on me—but I have since realized that these gestures were part of the ebb and flow of Basma’s eventual leave-taking from my life.

I do not know if I have completely forgiven Basma.  When I think of her, I still tend to focus on her sin of betrayal more than I do on the sin of her circumstances and the pressure she must be under from others.  I must believe that her regret over the loss of our friendship equals my own.  I must believe that she is a heart-friend, and that her closeness was not a veneer or intentionally fleeting.  Basma is a woman who loves fully and deeply, who throws herself into a friendship with a flourish.  She overwhelms her friends with care and attention, making them feel like the most special person on the planet.  Nevertheless, her community has set certain parameters for her regarding who is eligible for her friendship, and I happened to have stepped outside that boundary.

Real friendship lasts forever, right?  That was always my perspective before I experienced the rise and fall of friendship with Basma.  Now I realize that friendship for a time is not a failure.  There are things to be learned and there are ways to be changed from each friendship, no matter how long or short its lifespan.  I have learned that numerous outside factors influence and control the bond between two people; a friendship is not only made of two people committed to one another, but of a community of people and circumstances, pushing and pulling the friendship in different directions.  With all these influences and attacks, along with our human tendency to succumb to them, how could a friendship stay intact without both parties continually acknowledging the forgiveness of Christ and the unconditional love of God, believing that same “love without boundaries” to be incumbent upon each toward the other?

The concept of Intatharick (I will be waiting for you) is one of many important things I learned from Basma. This phrase resonates well with the unconditional love and welcome I have time and time again received from Christ.  Even when I deeply offend Him, He is ready and waiting, not only standing in His place in anticipation of my arrival but running to meet me!  His arms remain wide open, and He has already forgiven and forgotten.  That is fidelity of the highest kind, and it is the sort of welcome I want to extend to Basma when we meet again.  I want my heart to be brimming with forgiveness and my eyes full of love, even if I am never again privileged to share a close friendship with her as before.  Because love without boundaries was poured out on me, I can be a friend who will always be waiting.

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