As I write this, I’m at a coffee shop, which, let’s be honest, is not an unusual place to find me. These days often my friend Beth is with me, grading papers or reading essays as she prepares for the college courses that she’s teaching. We put our headphones in, and we get to work. I write, she writes. I read, she reads. We have our headphones in and we try not to talk to each other out of respect for the work that’s being done, but more than we should we end up pulling out the headphones – “I’m sorry, I just have to share this with you…,” whatever it ends up being. And I love this rhythm, because isn’t it so much of what friendship is about? Interrupting life to just tell each other something, just to share a story, just to be together, even if it’s just for a moment.
Today, in this coffee shop there’s also a group of college aged girls standing at the counter ordering lattes and iced teas. I’m only guessing they’re in college, of course, but I think their casual dress, perfectly done make-up, and their hair in buns makes it a pretty safe guess. Only college girls can get away with dressing like that and making it look good. If I wore what they were, I’d look like a matronly librarian who left her cats at home and is trying too hard to look young in public.
You know what else these girls can get away with? Wrapping their arms around each other and hanging on in extended hug-like embraces while they wait for their orders to be rung up. And between you and me, I envy the ease with which they connect to each other, in this way and in so many others.
I spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about friendship, which you know is not that uncommon. But, I was at a conference with church people, and I was surrounded by friends I’ve known for a long time, and I lived into the gratitude of knowing them as the speaker shared a story about a 9 year old girl who cried and prayed and loved her friend right into a relationship with Jesus. Her story reminded me of the story of the paralytic man lowered to Jesus through a roof by his friends – “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:5, emphasis mine.)
For all the talk we do of our relationships with Jesus being personal, it sure does seem like having friends is an essential part healthy living. Like maybe when we’re so broken that we can’t get to Jesus ourselves, we need to have people who will cry and pray and cut holes in roofs to get us to Him.
I think friendship as an adult is sometimes a hard thing to navigate. We’re all so busy and running in so many different directions that it seems sometimes that there’s no ease in connection at all. And it’s easy to put people on the back burner when bills have to be paid, and doctors have to be visited, and cars need to be in the shop, and time fills up entirely too fast. And suddenly, your friendships become such that you’re showing up for each other in the big stuff, when there’s a wedding or a baby or a funeral, and that’s a good thing, but you’re missing out on the day-to-day stuff that makes being friends just a little bit easier because the rhythms are familiar.
So today, I’m thankful for parallel play in a coffee shop. And for the college girls who remind me that sometimes you just need to throw your arms around your friends and let life be easy, even if it’s just for a moment.