Beaches – A Friend who Stuck for Life
The tagline of Beaches, a 1988 film starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, says a lot: “Friends come and go but there’s always one you’re stuck with for life.”
The film—which would be worth watching for the soundtrack alone—is about the lifelong friendship of two women who meet as kids on the beach in Atlantic City. Hillary Essex (Hershey) a budding debutante from San Francisco and CC Bloom (Midler) a New York City child performer with an over-the top stage mom (Lainie Kazan) have little in common. But, as they grow up, they keep in touch through letters. The extroverted CC struggles to make it in show business while the introverted Hillary becomes a successful lawyer. CC and Hillary are reunited in New York and become roommates in CC’s apartment.
The movie follows them through the various stages of their friendship, including their falling in love with the same man and arguments triggered by CC’s ability to suck the air out of any room she enters. Although their fights make it look as if the friendship is over, they tearfully reconcile. Hillary marries and becomes pregnant but then catches her husband with another woman. CC is drafted into the delivery room. She promptly faints while Hillary gives birth to a daughter. CC’s musical career eventually brings the fame and money she wants, however it’s her friend’s loving influence she values most. The film’s Grammy-winning theme song “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” in the movie or outside it, is always a tear-jerker, as is the end of the movie.
Spoiler Alert: At the end of the movie, with her young daughter and CC caring for her, Hillary is at CC’s beach house dying due to viral cardiomyopathy (a disease that causes heart damage). The title becomes clear; these friends met on a beach and they’re parting on a beach. When it matters most, the only one who is there for Hillary—and will be there to raise her daughter—is her lifelong friend, CC.
Friendship is a wonderful but strange thing. Often what friends want and expect from each other isn’t what they receive. Even Jesus’ friends complain of this in John 11. When sisters Martha and Mary send Jesus word that their brother, His good friend Lazarus, is sick, they know He will come and heal him. After all, He healed so many. But Jesus doesn’t come. He deliberately stays put for two more days, explaining to the disciples (v. 4 NLT): “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God.” Yet verse 5 states clearly that “Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.”
When Jesus arrived four days after Lazarus died, the extroverted Martha, who was “torn apart by many things” in another story, rushes out to meet Him. But Mary, the introvert, stays in the house. Martha knows Jesus could have healed her brother. She also seems to believe He could raise him, saying, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask” (v. 22). The answer He gives—that her brother will rise again—doesn’t really satisfy her. (Just as sometimes His answers to our requests/prayers don’t satisfy us.)
What a revelation! Jesus did—and still does—things that seem uncaring but really aren’t. He doesn’t always run to the rescue. He doesn’t prevent something He could prevent. He doesn’t seem to show sympathy for Martha when she confronts Him. Rather, He questions the depth of her faith. “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. . . . Do you believe this, Martha?” (11:25–26).
Martha assures Him that she believes He is the Messiah, the Son of God. Then she goes to get Mary. Although very different from her sister, Mary says exactly the same thing to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here my brother wouldn’t have died.” That is true. It’s not recorded that anyone ever died in the presence of Jesus, “the life.”
People speculate why Jesus wept in verse 35. Is it because of how grieved Mary is? Because His friends don’t have more faith? Or because He is going to bring Lazarus back from a far better place? We don’t know. However, He weeps with them.
Jesus had the huge stone rolled away from the front of the tomb. Ever practical, Martha brought up that He might not want to visit Lazarus’ body because of the odor (being dead four days in a hot climate). But Jesus wasn’t there for visitation. He prayed out loud to His Father so the crowd could hear Him. He called Lazarus back from the dead and out of the tomb!
Amy Carmichael wrote in The Edges of His Ways: “I have been thinking of how many unexplained things there are in life. Our Lord Jesus who could have explained everything, explained nothing. He said there would be tribulation, but He never said why. Sometimes He spoke of suffering being to the glory of God, but He never said how. All through the scriptures, it is the same. I cannot recall a single explanation of trial. Can you? We are trusted with the unexplained.”
There are many times I struggle with the unexplained, but it might not be any less painful if I understood why things happen. I think of Martha and Mary whose mourning was turned into joy. They had their brother restored to them, but one day they would have to bury him again. Or he would have to bury them. What made the pain less acute was that they knew death wouldn’t have the last word. Each of them had a preview of the defeat of the last enemy. They had a Friend who stuck with them for life—and beyond. And that is what matters most.