A friend recently invited me to a luncheon at her house because "my Kenton County friends want to meet my Campbell County friends." Her invitation said that her golfing friends wanted to meet her non-golfing friends, which must boil down to the same thing.
That made me think about how I group my friends into categories and sub-categories. For example, there are two couples that we know fairly well that I think of as "our rich friends." That's purely a money designation, for many of my friends are rich in other ways.
Tonight we had for supper four couples (rich in love and children) that fit into a very specific category, but not one I think of often. They were all couples for whom Steve performed their wedding ceremony. The oldest are now grandparents; the youngest have a three-year-old. Five other couples had previous plans.
Worshiping with so many couples that Steve married seems especially unusual because the present generation of marrying age tend to have our youth minister marry them. He's been at our church for 16 years, so they are close and it is appropriate for them to choose him. But two weeks ago Steve performed the ceremony for a 29-year-old man who used to go to our church and still holds us in high regard. It's touching that a person who has been gone from our congregation for over 10 years still feels that connected to us. In counseling with the couple, Steve paid them one of his highest compliments for engaged couples: "They seem more interested in their marriage than in their wedding." The wedding and the reception were beautiful and well-planned, but that was not their main focus. Friends of the bride's family thanked Steve for emphasizing faithfulness to God in the ceremony. We were reassured to know that her family and friends are believers who live out their beliefs.
As a part of a toast, the best man/brother reminded the couple not to depend on each other for happiness, but to look within themselves and their relationship to God. This was a poignant moment for many listening who realized the young man was speaking from his own experience and mistakes.
Tonight we loved being with families with whom we have a long shared history. Thirty-five years with one congregation creates unbreakable bonds. I look at each of these couples and remember: a roadtrip with Bev before she was married; the year of dinner and Bible studies that Ruth and Bob had with Jim before he became a Christian; Kim's strong faith throughout the death of her first husband; Scott being the only person at church besides Steve who calls me "Nita;" Donia, from a family of twelve children, traveling to China to bring back this precious albino little girl; Cathy, who is more beautiful in both appearance and as a person now than when she married; Bill and Gene, whose quiet service keeps building and grounds functioning smoothly and their families grounded. What a special group of people!
Such a pleasant time together makes me want to plan a time when the other five couples and their children can come. But how could it match this?
Now to think of other categories of friends to invite: those who are unbelievers, strong believers that are part of other faith traditions, new hires at the university, neighbors, those of our church older than we, our children's peers that Steve didn't marry, people new to our congregation in the last two years, those who persist in special ministries that are often under-appreciated, couples with babies, singles of all ages, former elders and deacons and their wives, those who taught our children (now grown) in Bible classes. The list is endless. It was fun to have them guess their commonality. Bill figured it out, but the rest were surprised to know Steve married Bill and Bev.
Life is cyclical and we must savor it and examine it without letting it slip by unnoticed. God gives us each day, each friend, each moment. Let's pay attention to our relationships in every sector of our lives. Only by keeping up these connections can we avoid the "if only I had...." regrets in our lives.