Monday, October 24, 2005

Best Friends Forever

Excuse me while I try to wax philosophical for a while ...

I was thinking earlier today about having a "best friend." When I was a little girl, I used to think it was sad that adults didn't get to have a best friend. When you're a little girl, not only do you have a best friend (or if you don't, you wish you do), but you have half of a heart-shaped necklace that either says "Be Fri" or "st ends." You have someone who sits with you every day at lunch, and when your mom packs you a healthy lunch, she'll share her summer sausage and oreos with you. You have someone who writes you a letter a week when she moves to Illinois, and whom you can visit for two weeks the summer after she moves.

As we grow older, the idea of having a best friend seems to fade away. We think we mature out of it; none of that exclusivistic and childish nonsense about "best friends."

But today I was thinking that we should reclaim titles for our relationships. The reason is that titles carry responsibility. If I don't have a best friend, there's no one whose job description it is to listen to me, support me, be there for me (I'm not thinking of moms here).

Maybe this explains (partly?) the proliferation of the small group concept for churches in America. We've lost that core sense of identity in a group; here is a group of people whose "job description" - for that portion of their lives anyway - is to be your friend, your confidant, your supporter.

I don't really know where I'm going with this. I can't think of a snappy conclusion. I'm deeply thankful for the many dear friends who do share my dreams and fears, for the kindred spirits with whom I can talk for hours and hardly notice that time has gone by. I thank the one who has enabled all relationships and who so graciously calls us friend. If you don't have a good friend, tell me: I'll be your friend!

Simon & Garfunkel, "Old Friends:"

Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
of the high shoes of the old friends

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears


Pilgrim in Progress said...

Interesting intersection between this and Ryan's post on Happiness over on SLD. I'll comment here as I did over there with a quote from C.S. Lewis...
Nothing brought Lewis more enjoyment than sitting around a fire with a group of close friends engaged in good discussion, or taking long walks with them in the English countryside. "My happiest hours," Lewis wrote, "are spent with three or four old friends in old clothes tramping together and putting up in small pubs - or else sitting up till the small hours in someone's college rooms, talking nonsense, poetry, theology, metaphysics over beer, tea, and pipes. There's no sound I like better than ... laughter" ... "Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life, If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, 'sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near friends.'

-Nicholi, C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, p115.

Anonymous said...

Did you get a chance to read "Life Together" yet? You know I was thinking alot about this very same thing. Thank God for blogs and verizon plans, because those are the only things keeping me connected to people whom I cherish. Imagine 20 years ago this wouldn't have been possible!

In terms of your comment of the purpose of small groups, I was wondering if they ever really accomplish creating those types of relationships. It just seems too articificial. Think about all the close relationships you had with people. How did you do it? Doesn't it just happen? Can you really package it? What are the dynamics and contexts to where genuine friendship occurs? I don't know. What is it about people that makes them our kindred spirit, and others not, no matter how hard we try? What can the church do about it? I don't know. My head hurts trying to figure it out.

Jeri said...

But when you're in yoru 40's, word may come that your "best friend" is goign through a divorce, or dying, or has lost a child, or something. And you make a decision: to stop, go find your friend, and be a friend. For only an instant it's an "all over again," thing. After a moment, the two of you realize you are just resuming something that never died but was dormant.

Friendship changes when you're middle aged. You forgive instead of fight, overlook instead instead of complain, fit together like old shoes. And you realize that the adventure of being friends is not a game anymore. Life is dangerous and filled with sorrows. What you do for each other may involve real sacrifice. And one person may never be able to repay when the other does to help. The sacrifices of mature friendship are enormous, but understated. So are the rewards.

But both of you realize that the spark that was alight between you as children is still there, a spark you almost reverence because both of you value it, and both of you value each other.

I don't think you'll know who your best friends are until the last day of your life, and even then only if you live long or suffer a lot. And probably the results will surprise all of us when we realize who truly stayed close to us.