When I was 11 years old, the Disney Channel aired a mini-series called “Anne of Green Gables” and its sequel mini-series “Anne of Avonlea.” My mom taped both series, and there began my deep love for Anne Shirley. I watched those tapes countless times, I read the original books, and I daydreamed about moving to Prince Edward Island. In fact, my cousin Maggie and I had a plan to open a deli on Prince Edward Island where we would serve stuffed olives and sandwiches and meet our own “Gilbert Blithes.” If you have never seen this series or read these books, you are either seriously deprived, or a guy. So if you are a guy, I forgive you. If you are female, you MUST see this series at some point soon (Netflix or Blockbuster are calling your name), and read at least the first “Anne book” by L.M. Montgomery. I know you won’t be sorry.

The idea of a kindred spirit came from these stories. Anne was always on the hunt for kindred spirits. They were more than just what some might term best friends. They were people with whom she felt a deep connection and with whom she felt safe and secure to be herself who understood the world as a place filled with hope and romantic possibilities. In the stories, she often found kindred spirits in the most surprising places and the most surprising people. Many kindred spirits never stayed around long enough to become truly close friends, but there was always an unspoken deep understanding with those of the race that knew Joseph (as another character in the books called them).

When I look back on my childhood, I did not have very many kindred spirits before my teenage years. I was sort of a strange child, who most people did not understand. In fact I can think of only one girl who would fit the bill, but her parents did not like me. I think it was because I talked too much. And maybe because I told them I didn’t like their butter, which happened to be cream cheese, on one particular visit to this friend’s house.

This girl, Amy, pulled me aside one Sunday after church and told me that she could no longer be my friend because her parents did not like me. She felt so bad, but had to tell me because she did not want me to think it was her who didn’t like me. She said she knew her parents just didn’t understand me. We were both sad. I never told anyone, partly because I was afraid she might get into trouble for telling me, and partly because I did not know how to put into words my emotions over the matter. I liked Amy tremendously. I understood that she really loved me, and I never once felt ill will toward her. She was a truly kind girl. Perhaps we’ll meet again someday.

That was around 3rd grade, 1983/84. Of course, I had several play mates, and never lacked for love from my family, but I think my lost friendship with Amy awakened the possibility that there were really people who understood me somewhere in this world. After experiencing Anne of Green Gables, the longing to find these people intensified. Several times I thought I had found the real thing, but discovered those friendships lacking either because of betrayal or what I will term suffocation. Some people feign a kindred spirit, but in reality they are insecure and lost and masters at being who other people want them to be in order to slowly leach the life out of more stable people. They may not fully understand what they are doing, but unguarded relationships with these people leads to co-dependence and idolatry (putting something or someone in the place of God in our hearts).

I have always been, of course, an extreme extrovert, so, I rarely worried over whether my friends were kindred spirits; I just enjoyed the company of the people I knew. I had the confidence in most cases to overcome betrayal and keep suffocation at arms distance. In general I was perfectly happy and found my like minded friends in books and daydreams.

Then in 8th grade, I met Jennifer George. Jennifer George befriended me on my first day of school at Bethel Christian Academy (BCA). I had recently transferred to this school in Lancaster, California after homeschooling in 6th grade and attending another private school in 7th grade, which my mom found severely lacking in several areas. BCA was much stricter than most private schools in its behavioral standards, but produced students of higher academic ability.

I remember feeling awkward that first day of school. I wore a new dress and was eager to make friends, but I held back because I felt ugly. My face was a mess of pimples, my hair was extraordinarily frizzy and really the beginning of puberty just left me somewhat insecure. The fact that anyone would talk to me was a relief, but Jennifer was not just anyone. She was well known and well respected by teachers and students. She was a cheerleader, which I admired deeply. She was friendly and warm, and I knew I was privileged to be in her company. She invited me to eat lunch with her and Sarah DiGiovani. I gladly accepted.

Those lunches together became a constant in 8th grade. We had more fun than I can truly describe in words here. I remember often laughing until I cried. Once I even fell out of my chair laughing from the stories we told about our lives. We bounced around ideas and dreams and thoughts. We wrote poetry and debated theology and theories and then laughed some more. Jennifer and I got each other.

Thinking back on those days, I am humbled and grateful all over again. Jennifer was a master at recognizing kindred spirits. I really think that it was from her I learned how to see people more clearly. She taught me how to be myself and draw people out of pretense so they could be themselves. I can’t say that I always treated our friendship with the utmost respect or care, but I am grateful that love covers a multitude of sins, and that today we have re-connected and are once again friends. Truly, I believe, once a kindred spirit always a kindred spirit!

After embarking on friendship with Jennifer George, it seemed that suddenly the world was full of kindred spirits. True kindred spirits will do that—open the world for you. I found one in the woman we carpooled with to school, Tami Vincent. I found them in teachers and classmates and neighbors. It seemed that the best thing for drawing out kindred spirits was to be real and open and sincere. When I approached people with sincerity and was secure in myself, they often met me with open hearts.

From time to time, I still ran across betrayal and suffocation, and sadly, I was not always the victim, but occasionally the perpetrator of those in my weaker life moments. Still, after wallowing in those moments, I knew how to look for the place of peace and security, found in surrender to my Creator. He ultimately drew me back to a place of hope and set me in the company of people who understood. There I found I could still carry on and offer trust to a community of kindred spirits with whom I related.

These days, I cannot imagine life without true friends and kindred spirits. The more I put my hope in Jesus, the more he draws me into relationship with people who see life and the world as a place for growing and overcoming. The catch for me is always choosing Him above the relationships with the people I love. Yet that very act seems to make my relationship with those people deeper, richer, and fuller.

To all my dear kindred spirits (you know who you are!), I say, thank you for walking through life with me and teaching me so much about love and friendship along the way. May our eyes always be on Jesus so we may find the abundance He offers.


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2 comments:

    grandmatami said...

    Awww, Bethy, you have such a sweet heart anyone that meets you would surely see and feel that. I believe kindred spirits are sometimes our spirits recognizing the Holy Spirit in one another. You and your family probably won't know much you affected my life until we get to heaven and you all receive the blessing for it all. I thank you for being you and allowing me to share in it. I love you. Love Tami

  1. ... on November 11, 2009 at 7:43 PM  
  2. Beth said...

    Thanks, Tami! I love you, too. Those drives back and forth across the desert were wonderful! Thank you for loving me and sharing your life with me.

  3. ... on November 14, 2009 at 10:18 PM