Friendship, it is something we all need; a sense of community, support, and belonging (Though I do know a couple self-professed loners who would attempt to argue this). Friendship is something I have thought about often since our recent relocation to a small community just outside Nashville, Tennessee. Friends that I used to call to grab lunch, or that I would run into at the grocery or the hardware store are now over four hundred miles away. So, while the distance does not make visiting prohibitive it does limit spontaneity.
Don’t get me wrong, we love Nashville; the beauty of the hills and creeks, the warmer and shorter winters, and of course the music. As both a creator and consumer of music, this is a fantastic place to live. But, leaving behind so many who are close to my heart has made this move bittersweet for sure.
Recently however, I was talking with my friend Sam in what proved to be our last conversation. Just five days later he succumbed to the cancer he had been so valiantly fighting for nearly a year. I called thinking I would encourage him, but Sam encouraged me. So much so that I am certain the forty-five minutes we spent on the phone together will resonate in my spirit for the remainder of my life. One comment he made was this, “What does it matter if my life ends at fifty-three, it’s gonna be no time and we’ll all be together again anyway.” Those are the words of a man who was not staring into the face of cancer or death, but who was looking through them into the loving face of Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
I have been fortunate in my life to have several amazing lifelong friends, many of whom I have literally known since my early days of elementary school. These friends are people on whom I know I can always depend. To have true friends is rare in this life. And friends who know everything about you and love you anyway, those friends are priceless!
The older I get the more friends pass on ahead of me. And each passing year and each passing life serves as one more reminder of the brevity of life. James wrote that life is a “vapor” (James 4:14). Shakespeare referred to life as a “brief candle” and “walking shadow”. And my friend Sam said, referring to the number of our days, “what does it matter”. Life – no matter how long – is indeed just a blip of the radar of eternity.
Like Sam, being present in the moment while resting in the assurance that our only true and lasting hope is found in Jesus is the only way to live. Lifelong friends are a rare and beautiful treasure. There is a unique comfort in those relationships, which is truly without measure. But, when we are able to sit with our friends in good times and bad and look beyond time and into eternity – that is indeed a gift beyond measure. That conversation with Sam was a clear reminder to me of the reason we are here, to serve. To love God, to love people, and in so doing look with them beyond this brief moment we have together and into face of eternity.