Old Friends

I met up with an old friend last week. He is a High School buddy I hadn’t seen in 30 years. When I caught his eye from across the bar in the restaurant we had agreed to meet at, the years seemed to melt away.

To be sure, we both have aged considerably: some graying, some wrinkling, some creaking of the old bones were evident. None of that seemed to matter, though. We sat down and for the next few hours it was as if time had stopped. We told stories that neither of us had rehearsed aloud for decades – and the memories, the laughter, and the genuine affections for each other and for those about whom the stories were told all surfaced quickly and freely.

Track meets, speech competitions, English and gym classes, homeroom antics, school plays, soccer matches all became the subjects of conversations that ran on for hours as if mere minutes had passed. We commemorated a classmate killed in a car accident our sophomore year, as well as a geometry teacher who died of a heart attack as he crossed the parking lot one morning before school started. We filled each other in on what we knew about other classmates and their lives, their families, their careers.

Soon, and all too quickly, the night was over. We said our goodbyes. We made promises to get together again if and when we were in the same city at the same time.

I have often experienced, but little do I understand, how it is that friends we made years ago reappear in our lives and without a moment’s hesitation the love, appreciation, and affection for each other surfaces.

Our lives had diverged on quite different paths. Over the years, choices we made sent us in different directions geographically, spiritually, politically. There were points of common interest and perspective; and points of clear divergence. What had not changed was out mutual respect for and love for each other.

I have learned through the years never to take for granted the love of a good friend. Companions for the journey come and go – and every one of them is to be cherished. Some appear for a short while, and the only thing that remains of their having come and gone are good memories and good feelings. Some are their for the long haul, as both time and circumstance conspire to hold them close. With some you stay connected by other means than proximity: letters, phone calls, and in these days social media.

What they all share, though, is a way of getting to know you fully, letting themselves be known fully – and recognizing that there is something between and about you that is mutually appreciated, respected, and trusted. What a blessing that is. Once it happens, time and distance seem incapable of eroding it.

Jesus once said, the greatest of these is love. Paul wrote: faith, hope, and love abide. And the greatest of these is love.

Our lives stand as testimony to the power of love to issue joy; to sustain through deep grief; to abide through years of separation; to cast our fear; and to make known and evident to us the presence of a creator whose first impulse was to love.

You will be blessed along the way with boon companions. You cannot predict which chance encounter with a stranger will lead to a lifetime of shared love and friendship. Be open to the heart of another. Be surprised by how love lingers. And know that every step of your journey is taken with the abiding presence of a divine lover who walks with you Into the Mystic.