Owlish Contemplations

The Leaves, the Butterflies, and the Roots

The little thumbnail picture and name slide up in my Facebook newsfeed, and it’s the same as every time I see that name – a little twinge of sadness and regret over a friendship that somehow faded over the years, and is now nowhere close to what it used to be. If I let my mind wander, I can remember … for just one moment … those high school days …

… how we used to try to study together, but would end up talking for four hours straight about anything BUT our homework. How we would bake together and watch Disney movies – or movies from Hastings that we knew nothing about till we put them in the DVD player! How we would have inside jokes galore … car rides to & from school with fantastic soundtracks to listen to … how we’d eat lunch together, go shopping for her prom dresses together, and be in all the shows together …

Now those days have disappeared, and I’m not really sure what she’s doing these days. All I know about her is rare updates from Facebook.

Then a text message comes on my phone from a friend I’ve barely known for a few weeks, and I smile in anticipation of our plans for the evening. And a realization about friendships hits me full force.

Not all friendships will last forever. And that’s okay.

What??! younger me would have cried out. That’s impossible. I would never be okay with letting a friendship go.

It’s true. I do get attached very deeply to people and relationships in my life, and I won’t forget someone who meant a great deal to me at one point in my life. I cherish experiences, memories, and friends with all my heart, and I tend to signify great importance to them. I would never want a meaningful friendship to end or fade away, but I suddenly see how God works through different phases of friendships in our lives, and how He has a purpose for all of them.

For if my life were likened to a tree, some friends would be the leaves on my branches. In one season of life, they are green and flourishing – alive and filling my life with things that I need in that particular season. We give and share with one another what we most need at that time, and it’s a beautiful friendship. But eventually, that season comes to an end, and for one reason or another, those leaves fall to the ground and are swept away by the wind. I may hear from them once or twice again in my life, but our lives move in different directions, and they move on so that new leaves can grow. New friendships are born in their place, and new people give and receive what we need at this new stage of our lives. Although it would be impossible to keep every friend you’ll ever have for a lifetime – given the number of people you’ll know in your life – sometimes it’s difficult to see that friendship blowing away. But we never have to fear, for God will lovingly bring new friends into our lives to bless us, challenge us, help us grow, and help us see Him better.

Some friends are like butterflies, though. The friendship may have been somewhat close for awhile, like a butterfly who stays to perch on your branch for a bit, but then flits away, only to come back in a few years to again sit for awhile. The colors of that friendship are vibrant and beautiful, but you don’t necessarily feel alarmed when it disappears for a short time. You know it will return one of these days, and you’ll pick up right where you left off, sharing that mutual affection and friendship that transcends time and space. With the advent of Facebook, it’s easier to keep up that type of friendship – the one where you loosely “follow” that person’s life, though you may not interact with them often. These friends enrich your life certainly, but are more on the fringes rather than upfront and personal all the time.

And then … there are those few friends who go down deep. Who are the roots of your tree – the stabilizing comfort and security who you know will always be there for you. The ones that know you inside out and upside down and love you even still. The ones who stick with you through fair weather and stormy weather … the ones to whom you’ll turn at the end of your life, and say, “That was an amazing ride, wasn’t it?” There are not many of these kind, but they are of the most beautiful friendships. They are built stronger through trials, tempered with the laughter of those who know us best, and they give us the most growth in our lives. You know that you can always depend on them no matter what.

I’m still a little sad about some of the leaves that have drifted away from my tree, but I’m ready to accept now that God has new friendships that He wants me to cultivate in my life. I must always keep my eyes open to see these opportunities all around me, instead of pining over the past – looking to see who He has now prepared for my life.

I believe that God has a purpose for every friendship He brings us, and He gives us many different types of friends as we make our journey through life. Some will stay for a few hours – some for a lifetime – but from each, we gain something we wouldn’t have otherwise. So enjoy every friendship that He gives you, and pour yourself out into their lives, for you never know when the wind might start blowing again …

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