Sara Faye and I participated in our congregation’s food-and-fellowship network the other Saturday. It was a joyous event which convicted me regarding the shallowness of my friendship with our hosts Don and his lovely wife Vee. I thought I knew them — after all, we had exchanged pleasantries almost every Sunday morning for 26 years.
I knew, for example, that Don and I shared an emotional bent, that we both appreciated a Eucharistic liturgy borrowed from the Book of Common Prayer, and that we had been good-natured co-conspirators for many years in trying to add a cross behind the pulpit. I also knew that Don had been a physical therapist before his retirement, that he loved a good joke and that he enjoyed sporting a jacket or shirt that challenged generally-accepted colors in men’s apparel. Even with that limited knowledge, we loved each other as brothers in the Lord. If anyone ever asked us, we both would say we were friends.
Our food-and-fellowship lunch included four couples, began at noon and ended at about 2:00 p.m. During those two hours I learned that my friend Don was born during the Depression and grew up in Abilene, Texas. A rough kid from the wrong side of the tracks, he became attracted to a pretty, church-going redhead named Vee and scandalized her mother the first time he roared up to her house on his motorcycle. I learned that Vee’s father, an honest and outgoing layman who founded a business importing and distributing coffee beans, was instrumental in leading Don to the Lord.
During just two hours at his home, I discovered that my buddy for a quarter-century had a decidedly serious — even intellectual — side which I had failed to appreciate. He enjoys watching birds at the feeder outside the kitchen window, listens to recordings of university lectures from The Teaching Company (another common interest), and for many years has been a gifted painter. Several of his landscapes now hang in their comfortable home. The table conversation was meaningful and enjoyably. It ranged from spiritual and educational matters to cultural, political and economic topics, all masterfully stimulated and ably sustained by Don’s wide-ranging but insightful questions in response to any lull in the meal-time dialogue.
Have I been alone, I wonder, in confusing shallow acquaintance with friendship? Does most church “fellowship” extend deeper than the surface? Are we so busy with other things that we are missing the true camaraderie of fellow-believers, or of associates and friends who are not yet believers? Have we neglected the art of intelligent dialogue, or the enjoyment of substantial conversation? How many Don’s are in our lives, waiting like buried treasure to be discovered? How can we better accomplish that? What are your thoughts about all this?