Old friends are like Lego
pieces...you can find one
in the strangest place years
later and it fits just like it did
when it was new.
What a clever definition. It's been on my mind this week as I've encountered some really special friends. Still a nice fit.
Maybe it's just retirement sentiment, but the value of long time friends has become so clear in recent months. Worse, it might be the musings of a geezer who finally arrived at that life intersection where everyone is suddenly an old friend. But, this week I was honored to preach four messages to the Crowfield Baptist Church family on the occasion of their twenty-fifth anniversary. Since I was Pastor of First Baptist Church, Goose Creek, SC, the church that planted Crowfield, Pastor David Coleman thought it appropriate that I preach their silver anniversary services. What a blessing.
Many of the first members of Crowfield were sent by First Baptist and were therefore dear church members when I was their pastor. To re-connect with them was a time of great reflection and memories. One of my instant learnings was that, as a person with little context and a great deal of future in my strength array, I should spend more time rehearsing the faithfulness of God back there in order to be more on point out there. Just the same, to be with precious friends from more than thirty-years ago was an unexpected jolt of nostalgia and joy.
The blessings of being with these dear people, and others I encounter from four wonderful pastorates, have taught me a couple of valuable lessons---
1. The relationships of pastors and church members is precious indeed.
That I was their pastor thirty-three years ago was evident in our personal
appearance and perhaps in our time-worn memories. But, the bond of those
years must be the Lego kind mentioned in the quote above. It reminded me
how they loved and cared for me then, and communicated that so clearly now.
I'm aware that there are strained relationships in that look back too. But, they
are old friends now, and that is a bond that warmed and excited me.
2. Pastors and church staff don't often classify church members as friends.
This is a sad truth about spiritual leadership and the lines that often separate
us from one another. Perhaps they are viewed from a different angle when
considered from afar. But, this distance shouldn't be so obvious when we are
serving together. Jesus certainly referred to his disciples as friends (see John
15:13 and others). Also, I remember that when Peter and John were released
from prison in Acts 4, they went to their friends, the early church, to tell them
everything that had happened (see Acts 4:23). Friends indeed!
3. Cohort friendships should be lasting and enduring.
After time with the folks at Crowfield I reflected on other important
friendships, especially those deep bonds with other pastors and church
staff friends. I am so blessed to have genuine friendship with several
colleagues who enrich my life every single day, though we are not together
every day. Curt, Marshall, Ron, Tim, Chuck, Will, Charlie, Pete, re-Pete,
and many others are people I value and appreciate and would call in a crisis.
Dear and cherished friends.
4. Long-term friendships are a source of great encouragement and blessing.
Theologian Harvey Cox, in his prophetic book The Secular City (McMillan,
1965), predicted that the secular city of the future would be characterized by
mobility and anonymity. That is our world now, and these long relationships
are in fact rare. Every single day I am thankful for Charlie, Don, Steve, Randy,
and Roger, friends I have known since grade-school, Chuck and Lynn and David
and Jean, long-term friends who still influence life daily. WOW!
5. Friendships don't have to be old to have great value.
There are new friends like Legos too. The fit is right from the start. They may
be fewer in this mobile, anonymous world. But, they are the stuff of life, and
often become old friends even in the earliest hours of formation. Today, I thank
God for John and Christy, Chandler and Elijah, Charles and Joyce, Jim and Ellen,
Jason and Angela, and Joel and Patti, among many others. How could we live
Not to mention my best friend, Harriet T. Holmes, my best friend for more than forty-two years. Now, every time I see a Lego piece, I think of them. And, in the process, thank God for all the Lego pieces that shape my life into something meaningful.