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Meeting Old Friends for the First Time

by Joe Greemore

This past Father’s Day weekend, our family of five hopped in the car and made a summer drive through sun, rain, and wind back to our home state. There I was to officiate the wedding of dear friends. The venue was gorgeous: a festive gazebo surrounded by a fragrant, colorful rose garden interspersed by waterfalls, walkways, and a lightly wooded area. It was a place familiar to me as my aunt and uncle, who celebrate a 25th anniversary this very week, were married in that very same place years ago.

pf062217So as we arrived, I found myself somewhere else, somewhere in time – caught at the crossroads of ‘then’ and ‘now,’ transported back to a time a quarter century ago when I was only 10 years old, not much older than our eldest daughter. My memory of that time was clear as day: I remembered the excitement and youthful expectation of being part of a new journey between two people whom I loved dearly. And I knew that in this same place, years later, our children were making similar memories.

Our hosts for this weeding weekend turned out to be the very soul of hospitality. They had become dear friends of mine three years ago and had waited some thirty-six months to meet Shelby and our children; old and good friends of mine, yet new to my family. The encounter went about as expected; after 24 hours of delicious food, fun crafts, much laughter, and tender hugs, the phrase “can’t wait to see you again” was traded back and forth with bright hopes for ‘next time.’ Only they’d all just met!

I’ve had that experience a time or two before, sometimes with people I’ve only met for the first time, other times with friends I know well, and when I introduced my family everyone immediately connected, like it was all meant to be. Undoubtedly life will feature more marvelous moments like these, but for me, this most recent encounter was rare and sacred, each second to be treasured for its uniqueness and beauty, a wonderful reminder of how delicate and deep human relationships can be.

I wish for my children good friendships to support, equip, nurture, and renew them, places where they can know respite from the busy I-35s of life and be received like royalty, that they will learn to give just as graciously as they have been received by others. So I will tell them the stories of our weekend trips and revisit the memory books Shelby creates so lovingly and so well, in the hopes that the narrative and the still shots will enhance their living and give way to even more life-giving realities in the future. I will savor the times when we take other trips to familiar-yet-new places. And I will remind myself that I am one lucky father and husband to have a partner and family as caring, flexible, and adventurous as I do!

My friends, I wish for you many seasons of meeting old friends for the first time for this, I imagine, is a kind of foreshadowing of what kingdom living is like: an interplay of familiar and new, recognizable and long past, a place where family and friends alike gather for a first, much anticipated connection to exchange great joy after a long journey. Just as we had to pass through summer storms as we returned to my home state, so life is bound to feature more storms; some we will weather together as practiced, experienced families and others our children will face on their own. My deep hope is that the bonds we have made with one another through journeys like the one this past Father’s Day will remind us all that the destination is sure to be as beautiful as the memories we make getting there.

Thank you, God of new beginnings who loved us from the very beginning, for your care and favor, treating each of us as dearly beloved children. Thank you that you are ever present in times of need and normalcy. And thank you that you never, ever forget us, but instead invite us to share redeeming love as deeply as that which through your great grace we have experienced and continue to experience. Help us practice wisely! Amen.
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For the past three years, Rev. Joe Greemore has served as Pastor of First Baptist Church of Waterloo, IA. He enjoys cycling, music, travel, and good food (which explains why he is such a huge fan of RAGBRAI)! Joe works actively with church leaders and local ecumenical and interfaith alliances to promote dialogue, unity, and understanding. He would love to hear from you regarding your own reflections or encouragements and may be reached at jgreemore@iliff.edu.

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