This past weekend, my wife and I spent 48 hours with seven couples that are the “Friends are Friends Forever”kind. In 1972, during their freshman year of college, 8 young women gathered for Bible Study in the residence hall of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. Life-long friendships were forged. Forty-seven years later, they are still meeting every year or so. Sometimes it’s just the ladies. Most of the time, their 8 husbands join them. This weekend, it was all 16 of us.
When Michael W. Smith released the “Friends (are friends forever)” song in 1987, it soon became a popular hit at farewell parties, high school graduations and even weddings. The two phrases, “friends are friends forever” and “a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends”always echo in my mind when I hear that three-decade-old song. I used to believe it was true—once a friend, always a friend. That’s not necessarily true. I’ve come to believe that only some friends are friends forever. Some are for a season, or a specific time and place.
In reflecting on this unique group of eight women who met while they were young, they are uniquely diverse: nurses, teachers, homemakers, college professors, bank tellers, township council members, housekeepers and more. They came from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Virginia. Their journeys over the last 47 years have taken them through the experiences of marriage, birthing children, adopting children, nurturing grandchildren, PhD’s, around-the-world mission assignments, retirement and more. One lost a husband to suicide, became a single parent and then remarried. Others have faced cancer. All have lost one or both parents.
The eight husbands are an interesting mix: two farmers, two pastors, a hatchery maintenance worker, a corporate pilot, a builder and a high school teacher. Yet, all are uniquely bonded through their wives. And, they too have become friends and look forward to connecting every year or two.
So what is it that keeps these 8 college friends connected nearly five decades later? As I’ve listened to the conversations all these years, here are three observations:
1). Shared Experiences—college, marriage, parenting, grand parenting, ministry and international travel. Over the years, the themes of the conversations at their gatherings have morphed and transitioned as the experiences and seasons have shifted. It used to be boyfriends, engagements, wedding plans, and the arrival of children. Then it was children getting married and having children, job promotions and travel experiences. Shared experiences of parent’s passing, health challenges and retirement plans are now a part of the current conversations. Whatever the season, there always have been updates on the shared experiences. In the early years, it was a “circle letter” that made it’s way around the group each year between gatherings about every five years. Then it was email and more frequent gatherings. Now it is a private Facebook group.
2). Shared Faith—all attended a faith-based college where they connected horizontally with each other while joining a Bible-study to nurture their vertical relationship with God. Each was raised in spiritual and church backgrounds that gave them a similar framework to express their faith. Every gathering over the years has been marked with shared spiritual journeys, prayer and worship.
3). Shared Purpose—each one grasped the concept of living with purpose. Parents, churches and a faith-centered university instilled this intentional living. All have lived out their unique sense of call to a higher purpose. Each has lived a determined life. During the dozens of times we’ve been together over the years, I’ve heard the encouragement of the others to “keep the end in mind” when one of them was facing a difficult season.
Some friends are friends for a season. And we should learn to be grateful and okay with that. Some friends are friends forever. And that is a rare and highly treasured gift.
QUESTION: Do you have a friend or two that are the “friends forever” kind of friends? What would you add as to what makes them “friends forever” kind of friends? I’d love to hear it below.