As my friend and I munched on warm chips and hot queso I was struck by the thought, “I wish we’d done this more often.” Yet, like so many times in life I was late to the game.
While we ate good food and talked about what was going on in each of our lives I realized things were changing…that this, this lazy meal of warm tortilla chips and green chile-infused queso (of which my doctor would not approve), this ritual wouldn’t happen again with this particular friend for some time…if ever. Life was bringing changes, and my friend would be moving soon (from OK to NC, if you can believe it…life is nothing if not ironic). There are enough connections in our worlds that our paths should cross again, but after 46 years, I know the barriers the business of life will throw at us when we try.
So I enjoyed it. The food, obviously, but much more so the conversation and the company. Our paths intersected for a few brief years and this friend, who is almost young enough to be my…younger brother, has taught me much about life and living, grace and forgiveness, pain and suffering. We haven’t spent an inordinate amount of time together and yet he has impacted me in ways I find hard to express. When I was going through a dark place the last few years, he would call at just the right times and say just the right things, by which I mean he quite often said nothing more than “I’m sorry,” or “Man, I’m with you in this.”
We had similar moments in our convo today. I needed advice, and he listened and shared his thoughts, but he is too good a friend to give me the answer I was hoping for.
I’ve been fortunate to have made some great friends along the road of life. I’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time in Mexican restaurants with those friends, munching chips and salsa, guac and queso, and chatting about life.
Some friendships are born through proximity and some through depth, if that makes sense. When you spend a lot of time together, you grow close, but not necessarily deep. Time does not always bring depth, although it can, and some of my deepest friendships are some of my longest. More than time, however, it seems trials create depth, be it your own trial a friend encourages you in, walking with a friend through a valley of their own, or a shared ordeal you both slog through together. These seasons can be long and semi-bearable, or incredibly brief and intense, but these shared experiences, these hard times, are depth-creators.
And yet, even in that depth, there can be so much left unsaid, undone. After I drove away from our lunch I realized I am a much better talker than listener. I thought, “There is so much I don’t know about you, my friend.”
Couldn’t we say this about every relationship? No matter the length of time, no matter the depths, there always seem to be so many things left unsaid, undone, unrealized.
Of all the things we run after and fret over in this life, I think most of us eventually come to this realization: relationships are the most precious, the things which mean the most. Relationships have a power to truly impact us, to change us, even change our circumstances and, not to mention, our world. Each one is inherently unique since the two people within it are, inherently, unique: two individuals with different DNA, different family histories, different stories, learning how to relate to one another. There will never be another friendship quite like this one. Or that one.
But relationships, as wonderful as they are, take work and for that reason many potentially great friendships are left Dead On Arrival, premature victims of hectic schedules, demands of life, timing and simple logistics. I’d wager most friendships land and stay in the area of acquaintances, sometime companions…but not deep friendship.
Let’s face it, It’s just easier that way.
And at some level I think we are all doing an equation in our mind along the lines of “X (about of time spent) + Y (amount of effort given) = Z (they leave in the end).
Leaving is…inevitable. It’s the one thing every relationship will eventually come to, and it will always feel as if it’s too soon. As I’ve reflected on the relationships I’ve been blessed to have in life, leaving is a constant. We don’t want to think about it, but it’s true. People move, even if just across town. We change churches (which really shouldn’t end friendships but sadly often does), or someone moves in order to plant a church in another community; perhaps a job transfers a friend to a different state, kids go off to college, then get married, and begin their own lives.
And in the end, no matter the length of time, no matter if you’ve been blessed to “do life together” for decades, we all face the leaving we don’t want to talk about but which none of us can escape: death. Just last weekend my wife attended the funeral of her aunt in North Carolina. Her memorial was held the same day on which the Queen of England said her final farewell to her husband of 73 years. Two utterly different lives, literally worlds apart, ending the same way, and both leaving loved ones behind.
No matter how it comes, leaving is hard…it hurts. Someone who became a part of your life, your world, is now gone. In a way, every leaving, even if only temporary, is an ending, a tiny death of sorts.
The thing I’ve learned is to not let this keep you from going deep now. The pain of those lost connections will cause you to self-insulate, to put up a wall of “this far and no further” with potential friends, and sadly even with family. But all that will leave you with in the end is regret: of lives not shared, of encouragement not given or gained, of wisdom not passed on, of love not reciprocated, of meals not shared, of stories not told or heard, of friendship not risked.
Diving in and taking the risk friendship requires won’t make letting go any easier…in fact, it will make it harder.
But it will also make it worth it.