Yesterday was All Saints Sunday, and in my sermon I preached about living saints – how we who are living are coming through the ordeal by faith, that we who are living experience loss and death before our own deaths. One of the examples was when we move, we inevitably lose loved ones. We lose the chance to see them every day. We lose some of the intimacy of relationships with dear friends when we don’t get that time together consistently, where you pick up each other’s vocabulary and know what the other is thinking and all that.
Long ago, with friends I haven’t kept up with at all, I sang this song at Girl Scouts:
Make new friends
But keep the old-
One is silver and the other’s gold.
The circle’s round;
It has no end-
That’s how long I want to be your friend.
I woke up this morning looking at my facebook feed (I know, we’ll talk about that later), and there were all kinds of folks posting pictures with old friends. As in lots of different big groups of high school friends. And I realized that I have very few people on the wedding invite list who are old friends. And the ones who are still “gold”/old friends tend to come from different areas of my life – they aren’t friends with each other.
You’ve heard this prayer, this hurt before in my thoughts and sometimes shouting and written on my heart: sometimes I wish I had the kind of life where my adulthood is full of childhood and adolescence friends. I used to think this was all part of the TV world I watched, that I was taught to want a Dawson’s Creek life. But I see it in real life all around me.
Of course, I truly can’t imagine my life without the friends I made each time I’ve moved. I really, truly, physically can’t imagine it – I get sick to my stomach and a little dizzy when I try. It scares me to think of a life without my Austin friends or my W&M friends or my Berkeley friends or my Duke friends or my Smithville friends. I don’t even just mean the closest ones or wedding invitation ones. I mean that there are so many people who have shaped me, made me laugh, listened to my woes, given me rides to airports, shared their fries with me, watched SVU with me, shaped me vocationally – how could I erase one out of my life, much less a whole set of people, by imagining never taking the next challenging step in life?
Still, sometimes I am greedy, God, and I want both. I want piles of gold – and silver! I want to be surrounded by so great a cloud of friends right here and now. I want to think I unselfishly could pour myself into that many relationships and add gold and silver to others. How do you do it? I mean, besides being God. How does Jesus do it? He’s human. I’m human. Did he miss his childhood friends? His friends from adolescence?
I want to think this isn’t a truly greedy or petty hurt I carry. I want to think this is about a love I want to give, not just receive. Sometimes I just miss my friends, God. And I want to keep them. And I say that meaning I want to do my part to maintain relationships but there just doesn’t seem enough energy or time in the day and now there is way too much distance in space and time especially to find my way back to some friends.
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God, thank you for my friends – all of them. All of them. The silver and the gold and the ones I haven’t met yet. Thank you for bringing people into my life who know how to make me laugh who listen and who need my love too. Thank you for sending me places to be someone’s friend or to find more myself. Comfort the lonely tonight. Be with the people who are losing friends to death, especially those who are in that phase of life where they come upon a friend’s obituary and realize they had no idea and the pain is emphasized by the distance of time and space. Help us all to draw near to each other as best we can, to keep even threads of connection where ropes and tight knots and elaborate friendship bracelets once existed. And help me to see friends in strangers, to be a friend to the stranger. That stranger has been me.