Straight Paths

This is part eight of a series about Jerry, my departed friend who “Sticks closer than a brother,” (Proverbs 18:24). Jerry and I made memories to last us a lifetime; cave exploring in Kentucky (spelunking), watching UFC fights at “Buffalo Wild Wings”, our five day, 1,700 mile motorcycle road trip through seven southern states, our self-guided ten day tour through Alaska which we referred to as “Jerry and Goren’s big adventure”, and “The year of the concerts”. I could go on and on. On second thought, I think our memories made us.

My son-in-law, Shane, frequently tries out new songs on my wife, Susie, and me. One day he called and said, “I wrote a new song, why don’t you come down so I can play it for you”; so we did and we loved it. Following are excerpts; “Folks skip town, can’t wait to leave…some you just never see…But I could never stay gone…because you can’t replace the things that ain’t ever changed…Same old fires and same old friends, heard every story least a hundred times, but tell that one again…You can’t make old friends…can’t recreate the times you made, wouldn’t want to anyway,” (“Can’t make old friends”).

Shane is right, but I would take it a step further and suggest, “You can’t make friends”. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Friendship requires a foundation of affinity, a common love, a common vision that can’t be created, it can only be discovered,” (Essay on friendship). C.S. Lewis wrote; “We think we have chosen our own friends, but for the Christian there is strictly speaking, no chance. There is a secret master of ceremonies who is always at work…At the feast of friendship it is God who has spread the board and it is God who has chosen the guests…,” (“The Four Loves”).

Emerson adds, “Friendship does not ask you, ‘Do you love me’, so much as

‘Do you see the same truth; are you as passionate about the same thing?’” C.S. Lewis wrote, “The typical expression of opening friendship, would be something like, ‘What, you too! I thought I was the only one!’...Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; friends hardly ever talk about their friendship. Lovers are face to face absorbed in one another. Friends are side by side, shoulder to shoulder absorbed in some common interest…The very condition for having friends is that you would want something else besides friends…Those who have nothing can share nothing, those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers,” (The Four Loves).

Wise King Solomon wrote, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” (Proverbs, 18:24, English Standard Version). A person can have many acquaintances, colleagues, associates, relatives, companions, but friends are rare, few and far between. Every other relationship, except friendship, comes with strings attached in the form of social, civic, familial or organizational obligations and demands. Tim Keller explains, “A friend is someone who has chosen you. Friendship is the only love that is not a biological or sociological necessity. It is the only love that is absolutely deliberate. It will not push or force itself on you.” Perhaps that’s why friendships can be the easiest relationships to neglect or ignore.

Charles Hanson Towne (1877-1949) wrote: “Around the corner I have a friend, in this great city that has no end. Yet days go by and weeks rush on, and before I know it a year is gone. And I never see my old friend’s face, for life is a swift and terrible race… Tomorrow, I say, I’ll call on Jim, just to show him that I’m thinking of him. Tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes, and the distance between us grows and grows. Around the corner yet miles away, here’s a telegram, ‘Jim died today’. And that’s what we get and deserve in the end, around the corner a vanished friend,” (“Around the corner”, by Charles Hanson Towne).

Emerson was right when he suggested, “Friendship…can’t be created…it can only be discovered,” but it still has to be forged. Jerry and my friendship was forged, mostly because Jerry always stayed in contact, he witnessed “the good, the bad and ugly” in me but never rejected, discarded or deserted me; as wise King Solomon wrote “A friend loves at all times,” (Proverbs 17:17). I’ve known a handful of men who have made me want to be a better man, but Jerry makes me want to be a better friend.

In conclusion let’s heed the advice of Oswald Chambers: “Always keep in contact with those books and those people that enlarge your horizons and make it possible to stretch yourself,” (The Moral Foundation of Life).

Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at lorenhardin53@gmail.com. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course”, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

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