I’ve long thought that it should really be called hemail, not email, because it’s an especially masculine form of communication: giving the appearance of closeness while allowing you to keep your distance.
Like many guys, I played at friendships for much of my life. I was outgoing in a superficial kind of way, not wanting to let anyone get too close because I was sure that I didn’t measure up, and I didn’t want to be exposed. I’d invite people round, figuratively, but we stayed out on the front porch.
There were a couple of exceptions who got to come inside. I showed them some of the rooms; I even let them take a peek at some of the renovation that still needed to be done. But the really messy stuff stayed off-limits in the backroom.
But there comes a time that a sinkhole so spectacularly causes a house to collapse that you can’t really keep up the charade. When I reached that point, I decided that rather than use what little spare energy I had left to keep up pretenses, I’d try being real. Well, realer, at least.
Two other guys around my age were dealing with their own domestic messes, and we tentatively started swapping notes. Ten years later, we are still doing so, almost every week.
We’ve talked a lot. About hurts, hopes, God, the devil, families, failures, sex, sports, prayer, politics. Sometimes we get deep, sometimes we just shoot the breeze. We’ve prayed, laughed a lot, cried some, and argued. We disagree about things. We have challenged each other pretty directly on stuff, and occasionally even offered each other advice—which usually then makes us laugh, because like we know anything other than how not to do it?
We’re not a small group, they’re not accountability partners, it isn’t a prayer circle. We’re just friends. These two epitomize for me the definition of a friend I once heard from the late Howard Hendricks: someone who loves you, but is not impressed by you. They have helped me discover who I really am.
Neither is my best friend; that’s my wife. But, after her, they know me better than anyone. And that gives them plenty of reason not to be impressed, but they still love me. And I love them even though one of them thinks baseball is an interesting sport, and the only tea the other one appreciates is a political brew, the Tea Party. I know that, despite these major shortcomings, they are in my corner.
An old writer acquaintance who loves anagrams once observed that a close friend can be a closer fiend. But it’s also true that a soul friend can be a soul finder. It just took me a long time to discover that.