COLUMN: The value of long time friendships

We hear a lot now days about the value of family and that’s good. I often think that the more the American family deteriorates, the more we talk about how important family is; as if we can make our families healthy and whole just by wishing! Of course it takes a lot more than that.

But I don’t think we take enough time to ponder the value of friendships. This has always been a very important topic for me. Perhaps this is because as a single person, with no children, I have a different point of view than many who have made their own family. But either way, friendship is a critical component to living happy and healthy lives, and I don’t think we value them enough.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently because of getting in touch with some of my friends from my old high school youth group from my church. I’m thinking a lot more about it tonight because I just got back from Phoenix where I spent six hours with someone who I was very close to in that group.

I haven’t seen her for somewhere around twenty-five or thirty years, if you can imagine that. Not too surprising since I graduated from High School in – are you ready for it? – 1969! Ahhhhhh! (Yes, I’m almost certain I really do have underwear older than some of my readers and now you know why.)

But I digress. The time I spend talking to my friend (I’m withholding her name to protect her reputation – no telling what some might think to know she hangs out with a pastor from Parker!) was simply amazing. We talked for a few hours, went to lunch and talked some more, came back from lunch and were still talking when I finally, and oh so reluctantly, just had to leave.

One of things we both agreed upon was that we really want to stay in touch with each other. This is really important to me because she can speak into my life in ways that people who’ve only known me for a few years, or even a decade or so, just can’t.

And therein lies the real treasure of having long-term friends. They knew you way back when, so they have a completely different view of what you achieved than those who only know your stories of how you were as a kid. I’m sure my stories of what I was like in high school would differ radically from her view of me. And because she can be objective about me and I can’t, she’s going to be right most of the time. (This is assuming, of course, that either one of us can actually remember anything – but if you are 60 or older I don’t really need to explain that, now, do I?)

Just imagine how incredibly deep and profound our relationship would be if we had stayed in touch and helped each other walk through all the trials, tribulations, victories and joys that we’ve both experienced through the years. That kind of knowing and trusting can’t be bought, and it doesn’t come easily or quickly either, though sometimes we tell ourselves it does.

But there is no substitute for time and experience in really getting to know people. As it is now, I can’t really put into words how deeply I trust her and know that whatever we may agree or disagree on, we’ll always love and care for one another as friends.

In that sense I’ve believed for a long time, and I still do, that friendship of that quality and character is one of the most profound relationships you will ever experience. No, it’s not like being a parent or a child. It’s different but equally important and necessary in our lives.

Most Americans today say they don’t have many real close friends. In fact, many say they have none. That is nothing less than a tragedy and goes a long way towards explaining much of what’s wrong in our culture today.

So while you can’t hop into a DeLorean and go “back in time” to cook up some long term friendships, you can start making some now!

And here’s how. Be the friend that you want other people to be to you. Open your heart to them, love them, serve them, talk to them and be patient with them. Over time some of those relationships will blossom and in time at least a few might become the profound and lasting friendships everyone needs.

And what about me? Well I’m going to build on what happened today and I’m also working on a few others hoping to restore those relationships as well. The old saying is, “There’s no time like the present.” That’s true, because that’s actually the only time any of us have.

So get busy already!

Meanwhile, I’m going to bed shortly and will do so with the full knowledge of what a blessed man I am. To have a few true friends is worth more than all the treasure in the world. How blessed I am. Thanks to all my friends and especially to you, who I guess I’ll just call the Unknown Friend, for being so sweet, smart and amazing.

Goodnight all.

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Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit his website HERE.

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