Making Old Friends
Listen to “Making Old Friends” by Fred Smith
Sitting with five other men this weekend to talk through the challenges and opportunities for a growing business one of us had started, I began thinking about how fortunate I was to be there with them. While I knew all of them at various levels of friendship for years, it was the first time I had worked together on something all of us have in common. “This is what it must be like to hunt and fish or play cards,” I thought. Not ever having had any hobbies or pastimes (awful word) I had relationships in many places but not so much here at home.
We have lived in this community for almost forty years and I am beginning to believe there is preparation needed for relationships – especially certain kinds of friendships. It doesn’t necessarily mean new friendships. Yes, it is likely true what Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton sang in “You Can’t Make Old Friends” but that doesn’t keep us from discovering we can make better friends of people we have known for a long time but not known well. It may be that it takes years – sometimes decades – of preparation for us to be friends in a new way.
Something In Common
Scripture has many mentions of the way we are prepared. The children of Israel wandered for forty years not just as punishment but as a way of being prepared for the Promised Land. They were not ready when they left Egypt. David writes about God preparing a table for him in the presence of his enemies. It takes years of preparation to have the confidence needed for being at ease while surrounded by enemies. Remember when Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them? I don’t think that meant a house where they could sit by the pool and sip margaritas. I think it is place in the sense we use it now to describe someone who has found their calling or where they fit. We say, “She has really found her place.” We are being prepared in this life for our place – not just our residence. We are being prepared for a role – not a retirement.
In “The Four Loves” C.S. Lewis wrote there is a type of friendship called “phileo” that is the love we experience by discovering others having the same interests as ours. Often, it is a surprise that someone else shares the same interest. “The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” It is not the love of each other but the love held for something in common. I believe that is what I understood even more as I drove away from our meeting. For a few hours, I had been part of a group of friends who truly enjoyed not just our company but our common interest in something.
No Better Gift
I realize all the studies show it is difficult to make new friends as we age. The circle of relationships shrink or we don’t (or choose not to) have the same opportunities to make friends. We concentrate more on the diminishing few. However, that need not keep us from discovering we can make friends out of acquaintances. We can realize we have been prepared over time for friendship that might not have happened when we were younger with different pressures and demands. For some of us it was a matter of never being around or thinking that there was a bigger world “out there” and we overlooked the obvious where we lived.
T.S Eliot was right when he wrote:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
It’s not only true of places. It is true of the people there as well. We might call it a second chance but I like to think of it as something for which we have been prepared over a lifetime. Only now am I ready.
“Those are the golden sessions; when four or five of us after a hard day’s walk have come to our inn; when our slippers are on, our feet spread out toward the blaze and our drinks are at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life — natural life — has no better gift to give. Who could have deserved it?” wrote C.S. Lewis
Exactly. Who could have deserved it?
Art by Claudio Rinaldi
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