Stephen Schwartz wrote a song for the musical Wicked titled “For Good” where he captures an emotional goodbye between Elphaba (wicked witch of the West) and Glinda (good witch) who are acknowledging the fact that they have been changed because of the friendship shared between them. In this moment, when they are not sure if they will ever see each other again, these are some of the words exchanged.
I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives, for a reason, bringing something we must learn. And we are led to those who help us most, to grow if we let them, and we help them in return. Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true, but I know I’m who I am today because I knew you…Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you I have been changed for good.
It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime. So let me say before we part, so much of me is made of what I learned from you. You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have re-written mine, by being my friend…
And just to clear the air, I ask forgiveness for the things I’ve done, you blame me for. But then, I guess we know there’s blame to share and none of it seems to matter anymore.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? I do believe I have been changed for the better. And because I knew you…I have been changed for good…
I stood in the bathroom, getting ready for the day with this song on repeat. My husband walked by and stopped to see what I was listening to as he knows my music choice is always an indicator of where I am emotionally. He smiled and asked about the song. With tears in my eyes I told him that if I were to pick one song that feels like it represents the deepest parts of me when it comes to my feelings about friends at this stage in my life it would be this one.
Although my experiences in friendship are unique to me, they might parallel some of what every woman experiences. I was raised in a culture where the importance of friendship was instilled at an early age. My first friend was nine months old when I was born. We had no choice but to become friends and what a sweet friendship it was and is. Our parents were the best of friends and as we grew up together, a bond was formed that was significant in shaping the woman I am today.
The years went by and there were more friends who found a kindred place in my heart as we were woven together through the relationships of our parents. Those early years, friendship was modeled to me by the friends that I had as well as the adults who were raising us. Each one taught me something unique about what it means to have a friend and to be a friend, and I began to form my own thoughts and feelings about both based on my experiences. There was both safety in family friends and also vulnerability as I learned the joy and pain that friendship could hold.
Middle school was the first time I had a friend whose parents were not friends with my parents. Learning to navigate the unfamiliar waters of making and cultivating friendship outside of the safety net that I had always known made me more aware of the risk of being known by someone new. Over the years, I have made treasured friends in each stage of life while preserving levels of friendship with others. As I reflect on my friendships I have some of the sweetest memories that fill my heart and alongside of those memories are scenes of betrayal, abandonment, revenge, and pain both as a receiver and a giver.
There is a building and a tearing that has happened to my soul in the process of shaping me as a woman and a friend.
Building and tearing. Both/And because it matters. It matters so much that I want to risk the heartbreak and disappointment to experience the connection and joy. I want to mess up and apologize. I want to cry and get angry. I want to know and be known. I want to laugh and tell stories. I want to say hello and hug goodbye. I want confusion and clarity. I want distance and proximity. I want history and future. I want change and consistency. I want it all. The mutual shaping of our souls for good. To love a friend in the midst of our brokenness brings ALL of this.
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here.