It was 11:45 pm on a Friday night. My husband was already zonked out for the night, and I was just playing around on my computer. I finally pushed the keyboard away and headed to the bathroom with thoughts of getting ready for bed. I was literally halfway through the bathroom door when my phone rang.
Now, you need to understand something. My husband and I have never been “party-on-a-Friday-night” kind of people. We’ll go out to dinner with friends or maybe catch a movie sometimes, but more often than not, Friday night sees us reading or doing work at Starbucks, or simply enjoying a quiet night at home. We like it that way. And we like going to bed at a decent hour.
It was not normal for someone to call me at 11:45 pm. Far from it. I knew the ringtone, though. It was the special ringtone that I reserve for two of my dearest friends. I knew who it was before I even turned around in the bathroom doorway, and if she was calling me that late, she needed to talk. Badly. Granted, I’m on the East coast right now, and she’s an hour earlier in central time, but she’s like me when it comes to staying up late. 10:45 pm might as well be midnight. I returned to the couch where I’d left my phone and picked it up.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Hey. I figured I’d just check and see if you’re up. If you’re tired or want to go to bed, that’s fine.” I assured her that I was still awake, and since it was Friday, I was free to talk as long as she needed.
And we talked. She wasn’t calling me with tragic news of family emergencies or anything like that. It was just… life. Life with all its daily struggles and hard questions. Life that takes us on different paths than we planned without warning or explanation. Life that can bring so much joy and so much stress in the same breath. Life that brings more questions than it answers.
We talked about our faith and God’s plans for our lives. We talked about personal and professional questions, strengths and weaknesses, fears and triumphs, and that funny thing that kid said in class that one time (yeah, my friend is a teacher, too). And more than once, one or both of us said something to the equivalent of “Thank God I have you.”
You see, as I’ve grown older and moved all over, I’ve come to cherish those friendships even more. The friends that stick by my side despite the miles that separate us. The friends that have seen me at my weakest and loved me through it. The friends that know my faith and my fears, my joys and my sorrows, my successes and my failures. I treasure them because I know most friendships don’t last that way.
I’ve had a lot of wonderful friends over the years. In my late adolescence (after a heartbreaking cross-country move) I came to grips with the fact that most friendships last for only a season. They are valuable and are important while they last. Those friends influence who we become and support us during vital moments of transition. We love them, cherish them, and can’t picture life without them. Then the season ends and we move on. It happens over and over again, and that’s OK. I think back on middle school, high school, and college, and I remember the wonderful groups of friends I had. I can name them off, dig up pictures, and smile at the memories. For many, I still see their pictures on Facebook, but I cannot recall the last time I actually spoke to them. Again, that’s OK. I still move in many circles of wonderful friends for seasons of life that I enjoy now, even though I know they might fade later. That doesn’t change their value.
However, there’s the select few that have never faded. A tiny handful from high school and an equally tiny handful from college that are still vital forces in my life. For me, they all happen to be female – the girls with whom I once talked about boys, homework, adolescent struggles, and life dreams. Now we talk about career changes, marriage, and the stresses of adult life. We still geek out about the books we love and swap our career stories. We bounce ideas off each other, vent our frustrations, and seek out understanding in one another.
I might go months or even years without speaking to some of them. Life will continue to take us in different directions, but these friendships will not fade. When one of us calls, we will speak for hours, picking up right where we left off. We’ve seen each other through the years and we know the paths each has traveled.
I picked up the phone for my friend late at night because there isn’t a doubt in my mind that she’d do the same for me – because she has done the same for me on multiple occasions. Our life paths haven’t been identical, but they have shared some valuable parallels that have brought us closer together, even as I traveled all across the country and she stayed in one place. Thank God for her.
She isn’t the only one, either – my college roommate who became my maid of honor, my best friend from my first high school, and the girl who befriended me at my first play practice in my new high school and understood me as few people did. I have different patterns and modes of keeping in touch with each one of them. Some I talk to more frequently than others – but when you’ve supported each other for over a decade, the frequency of the contact doesn’t really matter anymore. The point is, we’re friends, and we always will be. Thank God I have them.