I had lunch Friday with an old friend I haven't been in touch with for about three years. He's one of the first friends I made in this town after I moved here, and we lived in the same building for 5 years. Far more than just neighbors, we spent 3-4 nights a week together and developed what I thought was a good, solid friendship. Back then, he was going through a lot - the death of his mother, a major move, a career change and above all else, a breakdown in his faith in Christ. Once he learned about my relationship with Christ, the questions came. He grew up in the church, called himself a Christian, but didn't have a relationship with Christ. A good amount of his questions were just factual, and many of them required me to stretch my apologetics. (I quickly learned that defending my faith is not always something to be learned from a book.) So our bond was strong - he at one point called me his "spiritual adviser". (Typing that now makes it sound in the vein of eastern religions. But I assure you, it wasn't.) It gave me the opportunity to pay forward what was once given to me by my good friend Travis.
Why did we loose touch? He had a series of great experiences where God helped him restore the faith he lost. The death of his mother created a huge chasm, and my friend finally allowed God to close it. He found some great Christian guy friends, he moved out of our building and I just never saw him again. Loosing him was a big deal to me, and it happened at a time where I was going through a lot and needed a good friend. I was angry and hurt because he wasn't there when I needed him to be there. It made me feel taken advantage of.
I've run into him on occasion in the last three years, as we have some of the same friends. Each time, I didn't want to be anywhere near him. I held a grudge for quite a while. I needed him to come to me, because my last few emails to him went unanswered. I took that as a hint to back off. Then - completely out of the blue - he called me about 6 weeks ago to borrow something he knew I had, and I hoped for a lot of things. I hoped I could finally be honest and tell him how much he hurt me. I hoped our meeting again would help mend whatever broke, and I hope it wouldn't be awkward. It wasn't awkward; in fact, it was nice. We saw each other three times that week and each time was good. It felt like old times. I didn't tell him how he hurt me, but I realized it was only for very selfish reasons I wanted that to happen.
So I called him last week and we made plans to have lunch. And as I sat across from him, I had a small victory. I realized I'm not who I was. God not only gave me the strength to forgive him, (though he never asked) but I'd also forgotten how it awful it all made me feel. We laughed, we smiled and I enjoyed our time together because I've finally healed.
...I used to be mad at you, a little on the hurt side too
But I'm not who I was
I found my way around
To forgiving you
Some time ago but I never got to tell you
...When the pain came back again
Like a bitter friend
It was all that I could do
To keep myself from blaming you
...Well the thing I find most amazing
In amazing grace
Is the chance to give it out
Maybe that's what love is all about
I will probably still ask myself if the pain of real friendship was worth it next time someone like him comes along. But I am tasting small victories right now, and it feels good.