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Thank you for joining me for this Year of Friendship. Please take a moment to visit my shop. Your purchases keep me painting and writing!
This month, we’re talking about what a friend truly is. It’s so easy to slip into the sloppy way “friend” just comes to mean any random person we happen to like. Or to think a friend means all the acquaintances on social media. Regardless of how friend is used, the root of friend comes clear when we look at other synonyms for “friend.”
A friend is a companion, a word that comes from the French meaning with bread (com = with, pain = bread). A friend is someone we break bread with for many, many seasons. And I don’t care how quickly and amazingly you click with someone new, a new friend is not the same as an old friend.
I make new friends regularly, but there’s a reason for the old rhyme I learned in childhood.
Make new friends
But keep the old
One is silver
The other gold.
In fact, “new friend” describes a risky and rare thing. So many of us do the new friend thing because we never figured out how to treasure our old friends.
I’ve often looked back at the friendships I’ve lost, many of them, because of my own neglect, selfishness and self-importance. Some of these friendships are salvageable, because God’s mercy is wide and touches so many of his people. But some of these friendships are gone forever, death, distance, sin keep us apart.
Friendships are, especially in the first decade, incredibly fragile, much like a flower. If you’ve ever grown a flower from seed, you know how slowly they sprout, root, leaf, stem-up, bud then bloom. And the breath-taking bloom which all gardeners appreciate. We know the work behind the bloom.
There’s not really an “audience” for the growing work of friendship. I rarely read about how to grow friendship when it’s still fragile. But this growing work is what creates the friendships we all want enjoy. Friends may begin easily, but keeping a friend is never an accident. We can do the unsung work of keeping a friendship when we keep our eyes on the bloom.
I made a friend in my late 20’s. L was pregnant when we met, so we can date our friendship by her son’s birthdays. He is now 15. We walked together, grew very close as couples. Her husband was best friends with Dale. And as a foursome, we enjoyed many good meals and adventures together. But about 10 years in, we fell apart. Our argument with each other was compounded by each of our family of origin issues.
We nearly lost one another. For about 4 years, we only shared one meal together. We didn’t want to be together, it hurt too deeply. We reconnected in no small part because of our mutual perseverance. But it wasn’t natural, fun, or smooth to reach out after the silent years. I initiated, but she soon joined and completed the rebuilding work.
Now, five years later, I understand why we nearly fell apart. L better understands me. We walked into deeper knowing and kept telling each other how we understood new layers of who we are. Our friendship is sturdy, like a perennial flower. We know how deeply rooted our love goes. But we still misunderstand and must work on communication, just now there are more blooms, more meals, more joy.
Acquaintances are neither sturdy or enduring. Acquaintances can slip in and out of our lives and we barely notice the difference. You know you have a friend when they leave or fall away and you notice.
A friend is a companion, through hard and through good. This year, L and I are celebrating the last five of rebuilding after the silent years. And we plan to break a lot of bread together. L has taught me how, once established, a friendship can withstand terrible hardship and thereby become more even precious. I enjoy L these days even more than I could before the silent years. The hardships grew the blooms, but only because we kept sharing meals together.
The Friendship Posts
Expecting Better Friendships: Friendship Fountain, Sorting Friendships, Downsizing Friendships
What is a Friend: Balloon Friends, Companions, It is Good You Exist
The Pace of Friendship: Walk with Me, Return the Volley, Trains and Rollercoasters
Growing Friendships: Friends and Flowers, Growing a Friendship, Weeding a Friendship
Healing a Friendship: Forgiveness, The Work of Healing, The Crucial Question