Friendships are funny things.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the tide of friendships, the coming and going of them, over the last year. Thom and I have reached the point in our adulthood where lifestyle-choices, faith-based choices, family choices – all choices – are adding and subtracting close friends, left and right. We’ve weathered the first wave of deaths, babies, divorces, big moral decisions, and faith changes.
And we are far enough out of college that those life-long friends we’d thought we’d have forever are the ones we haven’t heard from since graduation day. And some we’ve seen a couple of times. And some we talk to and pray for regularly.
And we’ve just made a move across the country and set on end all those friendships we had on Long Island. And here the question sits: whom will we keep? And who will drift away?
My friend Cara, I’m going to start calling her my unexpected friend. Her friendship was unexpected when I transferred from my home-base campus in Fort Wayne to the foreign corn fields of Upland. The couple of times we’ve spoken since college have been unexpected. And then, most unexpectedly of all, she’s planning on moving to Portland the same summer that I moved to the area.
So we met and hugged my husband at Apple and then we sat in Nordstrom cafe and looked for bacon and avocado on the menu and drank ice-cold water and had a lovely, long talk about the five years since graduation, and the two years since we last spoke.
At the end of the evening and the hugs, I walked to my car under a cotton-candy pink sky and had one of those God-your-humor-is-fantastic moments.
I mean, seriously, go figure.
And then there’s those friendships that you instantly feel a connection, from across the room, and know you have to be friends with that person. Or the friendships that weren’t deep but then suddenly are. Or the friendships that stretch across a lifetime, but come in spurts and bumps and unusually long emails and wedding visits.
There’s the high school friends, the college friends, and the friends that I only had for a very small window of time, and we never talked again, but they still meant so much to me.
Life’s strange on this earth with people moving around, and friendships blooming and dying every day.
Really. How do you figure out who to hold on to and who to let go? Who do you keep calling, and keep texting, and keep emailing? Who do you make space to go visit, or invite to visit you? Who do you choose to be your best friend? And who stays at the acquaintance level? Whom do you keep setting up coffee dates with, and whom do you say “no” to? I mean, I’ve known hundreds of people in my life. And it could be a two-job scenario just to keep up with everyone. And family. And my husband.
Here’s what I’m thinking: we don’t decide. We just live, and stay present, and trust. Trust, trust, trust. Because friendships are, by nature, mysterious and unexpected and humorous. And who can possibly know, upon that first “nice to meet you,” who will be the friend we call in all the big moments of life, or who will be the person we smile and nod to at the grocery store?
Isn’t that part of the fun and the fear of building new friendships?
So here’s my resolve: to stay present. To pour into the people who are close to me, those ones that keep inviting, keep calling, keep texting, keep loving. To commit to sending a text, or an email, or a phone call, or a prayer when a name pops into my head or dreams. To hold my friends with open, upward hands – totally surrendered to the plan God has for our lives. To love them dearly, to hug them close, and to hold them loosely. To understand that each moment is precious and measured and counted. To laugh and cook dinner and keep my home open and stay up a little late. To reach out, to ask for help, to be humble and vulnerable. To respond to texts and emails and phone calls with genuine anticipation and excitement. To say “yes” to requests for coffee and walks and Pilates.
Because, honestly, we don’t know where our next dearest friend will come from. We don’t know when someone will slip out of our lives. It’s the pain and beauty of living in this overlap between the kingdom of heaven and a broken world. We get to love people, but we have to lose them sometimes, too. After all, “To love is to be vulnerable,” as Madeleine L’Engle said.
And because, this is the thing: It’s worth all the pain. And the loss. To love people is, after loving God, the most beautiful and wonderful and worthy thing we get to do on this earth. And although we don’t get to decide (let’s be honest) who or when or for how long, we do get to decide how much of ourselves to give, and how deeply to love.
So here’s to loving deeply and well and often, to being surrendered to the whispers of God suggesting just who needs our presence, and to the adventure of unexpected friendship.
So tell me, how do you prioritize and commit to friendship? Over life changes, distance, etc? When do you know to pursue versus let go?