I have a cross to bear, and her name is Stacy.
We met when we were both in tenth grade during gym class. Our group was walking back to the school after outdoor basketball, and I wasn’t paying attention and ran directly into a gate. My nose slammed against the handle to open it, and suddenly I felt an awful shock of both pain and embarrassment.
My nose was still throbbing when Stacy approached me.
“Are you okay,” she asked. I looked up into her huge blue eyes, feeling the shame of having done something stupid. She was the new girl and had a short stature like me and waves of blonde hair I was instantly jealous of.
“I saw the whole thing,” Stacy continued. “I can’t believe you did that.”
It wasn’t like I did it on purpose, but I didn’t say that. Holding my nose, I let Stacy lead me back into the building where she ran off to get help from our coach. It felt like my nose was three times its size. I was grateful when she returned with some ice in a paper towel and placed it smack in the middle of my face.
We became fast friends after that, hanging out after school at each other’s houses and walking all over the city of Pompano Beach. Neither of us had a car, but that didn’t stop us from visiting our favorite hangouts on foot. For a while, we were inseparable. We went out with two boys who were best friends and double dated regularly, enjoying our teenage years as fully as we could.
Stacy and I both married when we were young. We still spent time at each other’s houses, but this time it was our own houses with our husbands. I was nowhere ready to have children, but Stacy had three in short order and kept incessantly asking when I was going to get pregnant.
I didn’t think to tell her it was none of her business, not when she’d been such a huge part of my life growing up. It seemed like everything was her business.
Stacy became a born-again Christian after her children were born. I wasn’t sure how she’d been saved, but she seemed happy and at peace with her decision. Everything in her life changed when she did. There was no more swearing or drinking alcohol the way we used to do.
It didn’t matter though. It thrilled me that Stacy had God in her life and believed she was blessed.
How I Found God In My Life
My personal relationship with God has always been different. My parents didn’t believe in Him when I was growing up, so there was no exposure to religious beliefs in my house. The year my grandfather made me go to Catholic school in fifth grade only scared me into thinking God was mean and spiteful. I’d never been baptized, and it was a source of contention with the nuns who taught us.
“Do you want to go to hell?” They asked me this often as I shook my head no. I didn’t know what being baptized even meant, but it seemed to be something I needed to get the nuns off my back.
Even though I’d never formally gotten to know God, I knew there was something out there bigger than me. I saw it everywhere I looked, the face of God in a painted sky or a wild animal or another human being. Each person I knew was so complex and wonderful, and I decided that it must have been the hand of God making us all unique and special. I believed in Him long before I ever picked up a Bible, the creator of all things.
I took it upon myself to get baptized shortly before my first child was born. It was hard to explain to my loved ones since I’d never been particularly religious, but it wasn’t about them. It was about me and God.
I found a non-denominational church in Pompano who had an older congregation and rarely performed baptisms, but I pleaded my case with the pastor who came in on a day off and did the ceremony with me. That day, the wall between me and God came crashing down. Until then, I believed He was other people’s God, but now He was mine and I was free to love Him with my whole heart.
Stacy was super excited when she heard the news. She advised me that my whole life was about to change. I couldn’t do the things I used to like having a glass of wine with dinner or seeing R-rated movies, but I’d be so much happier with God in my life I wouldn’t care. I found it strange because I was already happy, but wasn’t Stacy living proof that the perfect life existed if I followed God’s commands?
As Stacy and I grew older and moved to different cities, we stayed close friends. It was hard to get together in person, but we were grateful for Facebook preserving our relationship. We showed each other pictures of our kids and celebrated each other’s birthdays, which were only three days apart. The times we did see each other were full of laughter and nostalgia, and I counted her among my dearest friends.
Then, Donald Trump happened.
The World According To Stacy
Stacy was a fan from the beginning. She told me he seemed like a God-fearing Christian who repented from his earlier mistakes and wanted to bring our country together again. She said he would change the world with his policies and stop giving Christians a raw deal, unlike his predecessor. Trump was the savior she’d been waiting her whole life for.
I didn’t say anything to her at first, but my opinion of Donald Trump differed greatly from hers. He lost me right around the time he insulted John McCain’s service and mocked a disabled reporter at one of his rallies. Over the past few years, he’s shown time and time again that his intent is to divide and not unite. Stacy may have thought Trump would protect her from a dangerous world, but I saw him as the danger the world would need protection from.
After Trump was elected, things got worse in my friendship with Stacy. All she wanted to talk about was how he was making things right again. No longer would “illegals” be able to walk unchecked into our country and take over. No more would liberal ideas and policies be acceptable. She could finally say Merry Christmas without fear although I remembered her saying it ever since I’d known her.
In Stacy’s eyes, Trump was a godly man who would fix a nation she saw as broken. In my eyes, he was sowing seeds of hate and intolerance that drove us apart. We’d been friends for so long, but the divide between us grew greater with each passing day.
“I don’t know how you can call yourself a Christian,” Stacy said often. “There nothing worse than a liberal Christian, and they’re not welcome in heaven.”
Her attitude floored me. I didn’t believe in hell or anything of the sort. It seemed unnatural that God would carefully create each person in the universe and then send some of them to a horrible fate because they weren’t religious in the “right” way. I knew it wasn’t in Jesus’s heart to separate children from their parents or speak hatefully of people of different ethnicities or tell lies all the time.
Yet that’s what Stacy was promoting. Her Facebook page filled up with fake images that scared her and only Trump could correct. She argued that family separation wasn’t actually happening and even if it was, it was a good deterrent from the evil that was invading our country through our borders.
I’ve stopped engaging with Stacy when it comes to politics and sadly with everything else. I will never change her mind, and she will never change mine. We still like each other’s family pictures online, but we haven’t had a meaningful conversation in three years. She’s not somebody I would choose as a friend today, but the history between us keeps us bonded together in the most fragile of ways.
I’ve thought about unfriending her a bunch of times, especially when I see her posts full of anger and fear and news articles that aren’t actually news. It frustrates me that I can’t make her see my side of things, and I’m sure she has the same frustration.
How Does Our Nation Heal — And Our Friendships?
Many of us are going through the same conflict with people we love. It seems the bridge of understanding has been washed away, and we defiantly stand on either side with no intention to close the gap. People make nervous jokes about a civil war, but nothing about it is funny. If such a war ever happened, Stacy and I would stand opposite to fight each other.
She’s been my friend forever, and I’m ashamed to say I think less of her now. Not because she likes Donald Trump, but because she prefers him over the morals and values she’s always held true.
It makes me wonder what we would have to sacrifice to have some actual healing in America. Would we have to admit we were wrong or that someone else was right? Most people have their heels dug in so tightly that compromise seems unthinkable. I’ve lost other friends because of Trump, but I’ll continue to stand up for what I think is right and believe God to be proud of me, even if it isn’t the God that Stacy serves.
I don’t have an answer for how things will get better. The reality is the whole country is changed forever, and I don’t know how we’re going to fix it. I believe God has the power, but it only works if we let Him use it to heal us. Sadly, He’s becoming a pawn in the war over who’s right and wrong and whose religion is better.
Maybe, just maybe, we heal one friendship at a time and let God handle the rest. I believe He’s willing if we are.