“Old friends, old friends, sit on the parkbench, like book-ends” begins a song by Simon and Garfunkel. It is rare to have friends for so long a time in this age of hyper-mobility and relocation. Even with the help of technology like Facebook and Skype, the effort to “keep in touch” can seem daunting, and friends lose contact with one another, over time.
It is refreshing to get back in touch with an old friend. I hadn’t heard from Roland in seven years. He was old back then, and a little older now, in failing health. His mind is not as sharp, words escape him, and its harder to breathe. I spoke with him on the phone and I heard a spark in his voice: “Hello, old friend.” We caught up and shared what’s been happening. I told him I’d write to his new address and send a picture of the family; he didn’t know about my younger two children. We’ll be able to keep in touch and I am grateful.
The Bible has several things to say about friendship: A friend loves at all times, a friend can stick closer than a brother, faithful are the words of a friend. I’m reminded of the hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus,” written in 1855 by an Irishman, Joseph Scriven, after the death of his wife and his mother’s illness. His hymn gives comfort, when we are weak and heavy laden with burdens and cares; what a friend we have in Jesus!
Roland was a good friend, who drove the truck and helped my family move, who funded my first trip to China without blinking an eye, who shared the way and truth and life of Jesus with me when I wasn’t a believer. I am glad to know him and re-acquaint with him again.
“Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park-bench quietly? How terribly strange to be seventy! Old friends, old friends, memory brushes the same years, silently sharing the same fears.” Simon and Garfunkel’s song ends on a sad note, but there is no fear in Jesus, with Him as a friend, and with friends in Christ.