Friendship is an interesting phenomenon. There are people you connect with instantly, those you’re around constantly but can never really seem to get used to, folk who you’re close to at work but would never dream of spending time with elsewhere, some you like a lot but don’t miss when they’re not around, casual friends, solid friends, heart-level friends… the list could go on.
I am blessed with a wealth of great friends, people who love me and care for me and who know me from the insides out; not just our amazing “Derek & Rebekah” friends, but friends who are genuinely mine.
Then I know people who have no friends at all, or maybe just a few “arm’s-length” acquaintances. Men, in particular, often miss out on deep, genuine friendships. I often ask guys the question, “How many people could you call and ask to pray for you, or to meet you for coffee and talk about a serious issue, or confess a weakness and ask for help?”
The answer, too often, is “No-one at all…”
Then there are those childhood friends who you see maybe four times in 20 years because they live on another continent. Steve Green (above) and I became friends when we were 5-years-old. We spent our childhood at the same schools, played on the same teams, and logged thousands of hours of pick-up soccer, tennis, ping-pong, board games, and every diversion known to kid-dom. We rode our bikes and walked all over the town and we hung out at each other’s homes. Then, one weekend, he came to church with me and he’s been a person of sincere and committed faith ever since.
The huge difference between us as teens – other than the fact that he was (sadly) a Tottenham fan and I (fruitlessly) followed West Ham – was that Steve was a conscientious student who worked hard at school and knew what he wanted to do with his life. Consequently he became a successful “Chartered Structural Engineer” and runs a busy consulting practice out of Dover, just a half-dozen miles from where we grew up.
While Steve was getting his engineering ducks in a row, honing his craft and building a business, I galavanted around the world, went to college in America, lived in Montana, DeLand, Atlanta, Pensacola and Tampa, married a preacher, worked two decades as a schoolteacher, and finally found my niche as a writer.
Since Rebekah and I married, in 1979, I’ve seen Steve in 1983 (Pensacola), 1992, 1999 & 2010 (Dover) and then this weekend when he and Wendy visited our home.
But here’s the cool thing: we really are brothers. We don’t skip a beat when we get together again. We did, however, manage to suppress the urge to kick a soccer ball around the back yard… because Steve had something catastrophic happen with one of his knees playing soccer a couple of years ago and – this year – I was playing soccer and had something catastrophic happen to one of my knees!
- So I guess we really are middle-aged…
- and we have bad knees…
- and Steve only drinks decaffeinated coffee now…
- and we have adult children…
- and he traded in his mini-van for a sporty BMW…
- and before long I’ll be joining him as a grandfather…
But – and this picks up from Saturday’s post about my mum’s 80th birthday – who we are isn’t defined by the circumstances, or the age, or the wear-and-tear; who we are is defined by our identity as children of God.
So, yes, we could quite easily play games all day and talk sports.
But, Steve was talking passionately about a mission project he’s involved with in Burma; and I was all excited about a men’s conference I’ll be speaking at in a couple of weeks; and we wanted to know what’s going on at each other’s churches;and we both have gorgeous wives we’re committed to and love deeply; and our families mean everything to us.
I guess we really are all grown up. But it sure is good to stay connected.