If you had to name five people, outside of your family, who you know well and whom know you well, could you do it? Could you name three people? Two? One?
Laura and I just dropped off our third and last child at college yesterday, and our drive home was filled with a few tears (okay, more than a few—and I’ll let you decide which of us had the spigot wide open).
It’s been 22 years since we were “kid-less,” and now comes the joy of being empty nesters and parents of adults. Many of you have faced this season before, some with great joy and anticipation and others with great sorrow and trepidation.
I’m grateful that Laura and I have Jesus and each other, but in transitions like this, I’m also grateful for those who stand with us shoulder to shoulder—friends who listen, laugh, who know us well, and whom we know well.
We all need a band of brothers or sisters, traveling companions who walk life’s journey together. These confidantes are so important, that the Apostle John even gave them a title in 3 John 1:15, “The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.” Not just any friends, “the” friends greet you. Who are “the friends” you rely on, depend on, and count on?
C.S. Lewis discovered the value of friendship after becoming a Christian. He wrote,
I thought I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn’t go to the churches and gospel halls. I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit” (God in the Dock, 61-62).
Solitary conceit is a form of solitary confinement. No one to turn to. No one to laugh with. No one to care for. And no one to correct all those dangling prepositions.
Whatever road you travel, don’t go it alone. Friends help carry the burden and lighten the load. They can’t erase the sorrow of losing a loved one or even saying goodbye to your youngest child, but they can ease the sorrow. Friends simply show up. As Heather Zemple said, “You don’t need to say the perfect thing; you just need proximity” (Big Change Small Groups, 128).
Who are “the friends” you have in proximity? If you can’t name five, three or even one, maybe it’s time to pray, ask, and seek to find others who will join you as traveling companions.