Good friends are like family, minus the crazy uncle. They may not share your physical genes, but they shape your spiritual and emotional DNA. And as I reflect on the friends who have been influential in my life, I find myself placing them in three categories.
There’s the always friends. These are the people with whom you just fit, right from the start. There’s a familiarity and a bond that defies time and distance. You may not have seen them for years, and when you next meet up you continue the conversation as though they had just stepped away for a few minutes to fill their coffee cup.
Then there’s the forever friends. There was an extended time when they were a profoundly important part of your life. You haven’t seen them in ages, or if you did it just wasn’t the same somehow; there was a kind of awkwardness. But they will forever have a special place in your heart for helping you to the place where you both left off.
And then there are what I call the seasonal friends, who blow in and blow out, but are around long enough to make their own special mark. That’s who I am thinking of today. People like David, the other David, Chris, Rick, Michael, Robert, Phil.
These were men who sought me out at a time when the wheels were coming off. Whereas always and forever friendships have a level of mutuality about them, there wasn’t much in me that would have been appealing to these guys at the time our paths intersected. I was King of the Sad Sacks. Mr. Mope. And yet they sought me out.
One volunteered out-of-the-blue words of encouragement at just the right time. Later he suggested me to someone else for a work situation, even though we didn’t really know each other. Another took me out to lunch and spoke words of kindness. A third began texting me Scripture verses, telling me he was praying for me daily.
And then, after a time, they each kind of drifted away. Mission accomplished.
These weren’t just friendly guys. There’s a difference between being outgoing and being a friend. Friendliness, nice as it is, can be personality bent or professional style. Friending is what you do on Facebook. Befriending is intentional…it’s when you be friend to someone. These guys saw me and sought me out. Not in a heavy-handed, holier-than-thou way, no fix-it plans, or buck-up sermons—that would have been a real turn-off to someone for whom only feeling gloomy meant it was a good day.
But their gestures of friendship at a time when life was hard were immeasurable. They tided me over and tugged me through to springtime. They may not even remember me, but I will never forget them. And I try to keep their example in mind in these brighter days, with an eye out for others who may appreciate a seasonal friend. Someone to bring a blanket in winter, or offer some shade in the summer.
As one of my long-time favorite bands sings (in what, forty-plus years on, is an admittedly slightly dated, drippy teenager kind of way), “Everybody Needs a Friend.”