We first met 17 years ago. I was in the middle of my theological studies at Regent College. They were starting their programme. I was from Malaysia. They were a Singaporean couple. Somehow we hit it off. We became friends. Through the years our pilgrimages took us to different parts of the globe. They ended up in Africa. I returned to Malaysia. We kept in touch intermittently.
I met them again this past Monday. Indicative perhaps of the global nature of modern society, I happened be in Singapore on some ministry commitments. My friends were back in Singapore on furlough and were about to return to Africa. We met for lunch and then we moved on to a cafe named “The Good Old Days Coffee Shop” for dessert. Another of life’s mysterious divine serendipities.
We talked and laughed. There was no difficulty reconnecting. We recounted blessings past and present. We caught up. We moved easily between deep theological issues, personal struggles, and our hopes for the future. We exchanged gifts though gifts were not expected. They were just another language to say we were friends. (After all this time I still spelt his name wrong!) Then it was time to go. We hugged and said our good byes. I felt a little sad. I felt more alive than I had felt in a long, long time.
I was reminded afresh of the power of friendship. Unfortunately today’s busy world is hard ground for friendship. Most of our relationships tend to be either, “functional, promiscuous, contractual, or addictive” (Paul Stevens). Which is truly unfortunate because friendship when it happens: “…is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on the mountains of Zion. There the Lord bestows his blessing, life for evermore.” Psalm 133:3 (REB).
Like dew in the desert, true friendship is life giving. Life dew, true friends are gifts from above. Perhaps the most important can do for ourselves and for our friends, is to carve out space and time for friendship to flourish. Who knows, the fruits and flowers that may result may redeem a society.