A year ago I was "brave" and invited my friend 'B' to the Spiritual Spa. She hasn't stopped talking about it since.
"Is your church gonna do another of those Spa things?"
"Remember when we went to that Spa? We should do that again sometime."
"Hey, if your church does another Spa, make sure you let me know."
In January I got the email: THE SPIRITUAL SPA RETURNS FEBRUARY 24th!
This time, I grinned and forwarded the email without any hesitation, again with a single sentence: "It's baaaaack!" She replied right away - she'd love to come, and would it be alright if she brought a friend?
When 'B' and I went to the 'mini-retreat' last year, it was intended to be a series of three 2-hour events spread over a couple of weeks. We attended the first one together. I went to the others alone. Things came up, life got in the way. My friend 'B' went through some tough life stuff in the months that followed. I kind of left her alone about 'church' stuff.
But she still asked about the Spa from time to time.
A couple of weeks after I sent the new invitation, she asked if she could come to church with me for real, like on a Sunday morning. "I just found out I've never been baptized," she told me. "Your church seems like a really cool place. They have baptism classes, and all of those sermon podcasts on the website. They baptize you in LAKE MICHIGAN!"
Last Sunday she was there for the first time, sitting with me and my husband in the comfy balcony chairs. She didn't know the songs but didn't seem to mind. The pastor taught on stress and anxiety and I found myself rooting for him, hoping he'd really nail the talk for her sake - until I remembered that there was a 'B' in the crowd every week.
I should remember that there might be a 'B' in the crowd every single week.
This new Spa was a two day event, starting after work on Friday and then taking up about eight hours of Saturday. Lots of women, lots of deep, intense stuff. Lots of tears. It was like old-school Oprah - you weren't allowed to leave until they squeezed a few tears out of you.
I tumbled my way to church after work Friday and waited for 'B' and her friend, ready to greet them at the door and make sure they felt comfortable and safe. Ready to protect them from anything scary, to answer questions, whatever they needed.
But they didn't come.
I found a space in the second row pew with a gal from my small group. Those couple of Friday hours were intense, but good. The kind of thing that reminds you how much hurt and pain and healing goes on in this world all around you without you noticing. The kind of thing that reminds you how easy a spirit is to neglect, and how fragile and strong it is at the same time.
To be honest, it was kind of rough. Like a deeeeep tissue massage that leaves you a little bruised at the end, but the better for it.
At the end of the night, the Spa leader said, "We need you to sit in the same seats tomorrow because you're going to stay in these small groups."
Me: "NO! I have friends who might come tomorrow! I'm supposed to sit with them!"
Okay, I didn't say it out loud, but my insides screamed a little. They couldn't do that, it was a bad idea. 'B' and her friend were coming, and they NEEDED me to act as hostess and caregiver. Anything else could have DISASTROUS consequences for their seeking endeavors! THEY NEED ME I'M NEEDED YOU CAN'T DO THIS!
But I kept all that to myself.
I arrived a little late for day two of the Spa - just in time to wave to 'B' and her friend, shout, "WE HAVE ASSIGNED SEATS!" They looked at me with both surprise and confusion, then shrugged and found seats a few rows away. I could see them if I really twisted, but I couldn't interact with them, couldn't gauge their reactions or tell how things were going.
We spent half the day in the sanctuary listening to panels, speakers, and praise songs. We spent the other half in our smaller groups, going through the Spa's 'Reflect - Relax - Replenish' rotation (which involves journaling, quiet prayer/meditation time, and eating). I got caught up in the events to the point that I kind of forgot about 'B' and her friend, out of sight and out of mind. I focused inward and had a meaningful time all my own.
Then, as the Spa was winding down, the gal sitting next to me from my small group leaned over and whispered, "Your friend is making a break for it!"
I turned around in time to see 'B' and her friend exit, seemingly in a hurry. I barely acknowledged their presence all day. But even still, I had a hard time feeling sad or guilty in that rich, thick atmosphere. I remembered my post from last year and just repeated to myself, "It has nothing to do with me."
But this time it wasn't true. Today was a little about me. And about them. And about every lady who took more than 10 hours out of her weekend to Reflect-Relax-Replenish. If things had gone my way, it would have been a repeat of last year. This time, I was forced to let go. This time, I was forced to focus on God instead of 'B'.
And you know what - it felt good.
An hour after I got home, I got a text message from 'B' - "Sorry we had to bolt, had to rescue my friend's babysitter. Did you have a good time?"
Me: Yeah, it was intense but good - how was it for you? Sorry I didn't talk to you at all today!"
B: No worries!! It was great, intense on our end. Words don't do it justice. I'm thinking about doing the next mini-Spas. I think they're really helpful.
Me: Glad it was a good experience. I'm going to 9am service tomorrow, if you want to go again.
B: I'll see you in the morning! I think today was great for my friend. I really hoped it would be!!!
Sometimes we watch friends struggle, and we pray and pray and our heart breaks. Sometimes it's easy and the pieces just come together in front of our eyes. And, sometimes a gal like me has to learn the same lesson over and over in different ways. 'B's' seeking still has nothing to do with me. I still need to tend to my soul instead of hers. I'm still here if she wants to talk, but I'm starting to think that she's actually tending to me.