We recently spent an extended weekend away in rural Warwickshire. Staying in a converted barn, it was good to be in an area we’d been to occasionally – and to have a planned catch up with two long standing friends: Ele and her husband, Steve, who are Godparents to our children.
A few weeks previously, the owner of the holiday accommodation phoned. Introducing herself as Ant, she explained there would be a concert in the adjoining house and asked if we’d like to come. An invitation we welcomed and accepted.
I have only ever known one person called Ant and thoughts went back nearly 40 years ago to someone who went to the same church, lived across the road and was a great support in a difficult period of my life. A friend who, at that time, provided company, enjoyable encounters and affirmation. She gave me far more than I gave her but that wasn’t untypical of the time either…
Also not untypically of the many friendships I’ve had, we had long since lost touch but she was one I had often wondered about in the interim years.
So, imagine my surprise when we arrived and Ant greeted us. Four decades older, similarities in her appearance, voice and manner told me this was the same woman I’d known all those years ago. (The passing years have brought differences to my appearance and, no doubt, my manner…). I made the connection and the memories (not all of which were forgotten) flooded back and we caught up on a few events in the intervening years.
Friendships come and go, don’t they? Many are perhaps for a season, like Ant, holding a particular purpose at a particular time – and it’s taken over sixty years for me to realise that… Whereas Ele and another friend, Helen, both date back to that same church all those years ago: standing the test of time, events and distance. They have been constant companions on this journey we call life. Friends who sit alongside in the sunshine and the rain.
It made me reflect about Jesus’ friends. Now, one might automatically think of the 12 disciples but I’m minded to believe they were more akin to ‘colleagues’ – a group of men asked by Jesus to follow him and carry out his mission and work. In the same way, perhaps, as many people work in a team of others today.
These were fellow workers but not necessarily friends (although it seems Peter, James and John, the inner circle of disciples, brought some elements of friendship to their working relationship).
These were people who provided Jesus with companionship and affirmation when things were difficult as well as enabling some enjoyable encounters.
And Jesus lost touch with many also. People whose friendship did not stand the test of time, events and (in his case, literally) trial.
‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, the old hymn goes. Twee perhaps to our modern ears, but it speaks a lot about how what we have in Jesus can be found in our friends also.
‘Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?’
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