When Kent and I were first married, we were trying to get involved in our first church together as a couple. It was a large regional church, so we attended a meeting to get to know other people who lived in our community.
We lived about 25 minutes away from the church, and there weren’t many other families at the meeting who lived as far as we did. But one couple came up to us and struck up a conversation.
“P and G” were about 25 years older than we were. We didn’t have children yet, and they had four kids who were at the stage of entering college, in college or starting careers. They had spent most of their adult life serving as missionaries to a remote village in Bolivia. Their children had grown up as missionary kids. They had many fascinating stories to tell, and we were intrigued.
We ended up joining the same small group, which meant we met with them at least once a week to study the Bible together, pray and grow in our relationships. They lived within walking distance of our house so they would often show up at our front door without warning.
I was commuting into the city back then and working long hours as Chicago bureau chief for a chain of newspapers. Kent was getting settled in his job, which was about 20 minutes away. We didn’t have many friends, and we really didn’t have a good way to make friends around our long hours and our work lives that weren’t close to our home lives. To be honest, we wouldn’t have thought to seek out the friendship of a couple several decades past us in life, but these two didn’t give us a choice.
They became a faithful part of our lives that we could count on no matter what. I’m one who typically treads cautiously into friendship to guard my fragile heart from rejection or disappointment. These friends weren’t going to wait around for me to be ready for their love and devotion.
As the years went on, they became part of our larger friend group. We no longer noticed their gray hair because they bounced around with the same energy as all of us.
They helped us make tough decisions in life. They gave us advice even when we didn’t want it. They brought us meals when we were sick, and we helped each other with projects around the house and in the yard. When we started having kids, they would show up at the hospital and sit in the waiting room before the babies were even born. They became a third set of grandparents in the lives of our children.
They showed us by their example what it looks like to live in community.
Recently, a younger couple in our growth group gave birth to their first child. We got to know this couple before they were married. We’ve walked with them through the heartbreak and frustration of fertility issues. We’ve prayed with them through the pain of disappointment and waiting. And when they had their baby last week, I debated whether it would be OK to arrive at the hospital before the baby was actually born.
“Oh my gosh!” I said to myself. “I’ve become P and G!”
I made myself wait not quite 24 hours before making my hospital visit. But it made me realize how blessed I’ve been to have friends who never worried about pushing too hard into relationship with us. They didn’t ask permission to be our friends and mentors. They just entered in.
Last night, after months of trying to find a time that we could get together, we had them over for dinner. Our lives seem to have reached the height of crazy this year with college visits, teen activities and the ongoing volatility of my health situation. I’m always hesitant to schedule too much in one weekend, but decided that our get-together would never happen unless I let go of my caution.
After dinner, P was looking at a photograph I took of the full moon rising over a farm near our house. He asked me where I took the photo.
I told him it was only about a mile away… “Oh, and by the way, the full moon is going to rise in about 10 minutes,” I told him. “Do you want to go there?”
“Yes!” they exclaimed, just as I was about to start scooping Paleo cherry cobbler onto paper plates for dessert.
We all grabbed our shoes and jackets and sprinted toward the minivan.
I couldn’t think of any other friends who would have responded to my unusual suggestion with such enthusiasm.
Next to the spot where I took the photo is a huge pile of dirt that is overgrown with grass and weeds. It’s a steep climb up the hill, but I asked P, who is now in his 70s by the way, if he wanted to hike up it to get a better view.
OF COURSE, he wanted to run up that hill, despite the fact he was wearing loafers with a slippery sole and it was pretty much a straight climb up through dirt and weeds. The four of us, plus our 8-year-old, stood together, bonded by the awe that comes from people who can appreciate the awesome sight of the full moon rising over a farmer’s field.
I was amazed that we had friends willing to share the joy of that moment and so many others, willing to climb a huge hill of dirt, happy to pose as if holding the moon, holding steadfast in their resolve to be part of our lives for more than 20 years. And I was reminded how much I hope I can be that person in the lives of other people.