Friendship

A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a difficult time.

Proverbs 17:17

happy is he whose friends
adorn his furnishings
punctuate his evenings
with laughter
whose table is dented
by accidental kinship

Andrew Steeves, “Three Short Songs for the Departing”

“Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”

C.S. Lewis, “The Four Loves”

I get it, Jerry, I really do. And making new friends–indeed, even cultivating present friendships–isn’t any easier at 48 than it is in your 30s.

On a couple of occasions, I’ve actually joked with my wife, “Do you think that person needs a friend? Maybe we could be friends.”

Should I have an application process?

Over my kids’ March break, we’ve had friends over a couple of times. The other night my wife and I had friends over for dessert and played games (along with our kids). And then when the kids tottered off to bed, we hung out and talked for a good long time. It isn’t something we do very often. For that reason, it was refreshing. And tiring. We were up way past our usual bedtime and, sadly, felt it the next morning. No regrets, though. I think it was something my heart sorely needed.

Most of the closest friends I have had over the years live a province or more away. That’s life. You get older, get married, have kids, get busier, and sometimes move away. I’m grateful to have occasional contact with a few of them.

But I think of evenings spent with friends in living rooms, at kitchen tables, in restaurants over drinks and chicken wings, with no agenda or goal other than simply being together. Hours of conversation, laughter, and even occasional serious moments were the point. And it’s all the conversation and time spent hanging out that opens us up to those more serious moments. You see, the beauty of friendship is it often grows simply through time spent together seemingly doing “nothing” (thanks, Seinfeld).

Thankfully, even the best friendships I have now feel like that. Conversations can range from the silly, mundane, personal, to the more serious–and sometimes back again! But friends are those people in our lives around whom we can be ourselves, without apology or self-consciousness. Friends take one another as they find one another. There’s no need for pretending.

These days it can feel like I have more acquaintances than friends. But maybe that’s partly because friendship is much different at my age. It’s a function of the season of life I am in. When I was younger–that is, single and childless!–I usually had more free time than I ever do now. Yet, perhaps some acquaintances are friends in the making.

So while it takes some concerted effort to make time for friendship, to schedule a meal or even a coffee together, it’s still well worth it. Sure, gone are the days when I could simply call (text?) a friend on the spur of the moment to do nothing in particular. But it’s good to be reminded that there are people out there–friends!–who bless my life not through their utility but simply through who they are. And it’s good to know that I can bless them the same way.

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