Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Remembering Old Friends

The world is not the same as it was when I was in high school. It is strange to me to consider that some friends have departed forever, some have disappeared, some stay close--but none geographically, and some have started families.

I've never been good at communicating with those I see infrequently. My neighbors hear from me quite often, as do my geographically-close friends. However, my extended family, friends from Omaha, and others I've met along the way may hear sporadic news, but often there is nary a sound.

That world, the one that existed from 1996-2000, was assumed to be the world. However, as one friend who proceeded me to college said, when you go away you can never come back in the same way. So many close friendships around me disintegrated because people came back "different" from college. Disintegrated not in necessarily a dramatic or hurtful way, rather communication lines ceased and folks drifted apart. I was determined to not let that happen to me. But communication did fail and friends became out of sight, out of mind.

So it was especially poignant to me to see that one person I was extremely close to, but had lost all contact with, was married and had a child. This lady helped me through a dark passage of my life--a time in which my neediness outweighed my ability to give (all the time, though, considering myself to be very humble and self-sacrificial). It was years later that I realized my drain on her, and how unfair that was, but also how it has changed me and effected me in the years since. I am a stronger person because of that friendship, no matter how selfish I was in it. In many ways, the qualities that she brought to the friendship were ones that I found magnified in my wife (whom I'm didn't know at the time of this friendship). One of the difference, of course, is that Bethany is not afraid to give me a (metaphorical) swift kick in the butt so that my selfish tendencies don't overexert themselves. But my friend served as a prescient model for whom God had for me in marriage.

Those we consider indispensible may, in the end, be only momentary players in our lives.

The key, though, is to not let these moments become too inward focussed. In a way, it hurts that I have not been as important in old friends' lives as I thought I would be. But, the same is true I'm sure from their perspective. Life goes on. That is why it cannot be just about me, why my life has to have a broader perspective than my own horizon. That is why I need a story, which I didn't have in high school, to anchor me to reality. The story, as I've come to understand it, encompasses all the small and large things of individual lives and also the seemingly big "world-historical" movements and figures. It connects us to the past, the present, and the future, so that when I am gone awaiting resurrection, the life of the world and my friends and my family goes on. My part in this drama is small and seemingly insignificant, but rooted in the larger story of God's work in the world, it takes on meaning and significance that I could never have dreamed of when I was pouring my soul out (constantly) to my friend back in high school. That story, and all that it contains, is the only connection that will ultimately last between people.

No comments: