A quote I keep on my monitor reads, “The most beautiful discovery friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” (Elizabeth Foley)
This past weekend we experienced that beautiful discovery. Three friends of ours from forty years ago came to visit. From our time together in the 1970’s we have scattered quite broadly. The three couples involved live in Kansas, California and Alberta. One of these couples knew that my wife and I were celebrating fifty years of marriage next spring, and they wanted to come help us celebrate. The widower of the other couple also wanted to join us.
We visited, we went to the nearby mountains, we ate together, and just enjoyed each others company once again. Although we had occasionally met over the intervening years, we had not had a time like this since we all lived in a small town in central Kansas during the ’70’s.
Each of us had walked our disparate paths. But we were able to share these paths with each other and accept each other even over widely differing beliefs and experiences. I told them that the things I now believed and the ways in which I now experienced the Divine were the result of forty years of searching. I certainly did not ever expect that my friends would be able to fully comprehend in a few hours what it had taken me that long to arrive at! And that was okay.
In fact, I had entered this visit without any plan to share very much of my own journey at all. I made space during our time together for my wife to share hers. But knowing how far I myself had moved from Church orthodoxy, I had decided we did not have enough time to share much of that. But of course, questions arose! And I ended up sharing fairly extensively, at least with one of my friends, the essence of my journey.
During the 1970’s we had all been part of an intense church experience, including living communally for periods of time. We had helped each other through the births of our first children. We had learned, prayed, studied together, growing spiritually. For me and my wife this was an intensely formative period of time. We grew to know ourselves and each other in ways we would never have thought possible.
But this church experience was centered around a fairly conservative, fundamentalist view of scripture, God and Church. My wife and I had grown considerably beyond the teachings of our earlier years. We had moved into areas of spiritual understanding and experience which would have been considered heretical in these earlier years.
And yet, even though some of our friends had pretty much remained in that earlier conservative mindset, we were all able to visit and share where we each were with God and each other. It was purely refreshing to be able to do this. I did not sense judgement from my friends. I sensed attempts at understanding, rather than attempts at correcting.
We parted as good friends still. Even though we acknowledged fairly vast differences of beliefs, we still accept each other. And that is the beautiful thing about friendship. We have grown separately, but we discovered we had not grown apart.