In second grade, I found myself in a class with another boy who would turn out to be my best friend. Our friendship grew slowly throughout our school years. We attended different churches, but ended up in the same ecumentical youth group during our senior year. We went to separate colleges. I married halfway through while he remained single until a few years ago. Wherever my wife and I moved, whatever state we lived in my best friend always came to visit. His frequent flyer miles enabled he and I to travel to Europe and Africa. His career still requires him to be on the road spending many hours driving to meet with clients. Years will pass, now, until we are able to see each other, but cell phones enable us to converse quite often. At least once a month, my phone will ring and we'll have a long talk while he makes his way home. This year, we both turn 61. I trust him with my life.
In her book, "Called to Be Friends," Paula Ripple begins her introduction this way:
Christianity is based on the two great commandments which tell us that human beings can neither live nor grow in isolation. Without God's love we cannot discover who we are. Without the love and friendship of human companions we become less than we are. Without faithful companions we risk losing not only our courage, but even our way.
Of all the gifts that God gives to sustain and nourish our lives none can equal the presence of a faithful friend. No sacrifice is too great, no personal discipline too exacting, no struggle too painful to offer in exchange for the ability to give and receive friendship. Each investment that we make in one friendship enriches every other friendship. All of human experience and all of life is somehow related to our ability to call another "friend."
Forty-one years ago, I married my closest best friend. She is my life. That's a whole different story. I do believe our closest friendships bring us closest to God.