“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24
A few weeks back I was crafting my prayer list for the upcoming month. I am list guy. So, ahead of every month I sit down and create a list that steers my prayer for a month at a time. Try it out. Rather than making a commitment/decision for the whole year of 2022, just decide to pray some things for January. Then evaluate as February hits. And so on.
Just to get it on the table, I am not some prayer expert or giant. Just a guy praying my way through life because I need it. It keeps me tethered to the God of the universe and my heart in the right posture. And having a prayer list helps me stay relevant and gives me focus so I don’t just use the same things every day without meaning it after awhile.
But I digress. One thing on my list is praying for the people and relationships in my orbit.
As I was building my last that month, my birthday was about to hit, so I’d already started getting a few texts and calls from long-time friends.
One was a long text from Dan, a close friend from college days (which is a long time ago for me). We don’t talk a lot, but he always connects on my birthday or holidays. I read his text several times. Dan was easily one of my dearest and most impactful friends during college days. My wanderings with Dan during college solidified my love for the Bible and my love for fishing. He also helped me understand how to laugh as a Christian. Growing up I did not laugh a lot (per my own memory) and then, after I became a Christian, I apparently thought Jesus followers were a serious, contemplative lot. In came Dan. He wasn’t a joke telling comedian, but he laughed all the time. At himself, others, at life. Thanks Dan!
That memory of Dan got me thinking about good friends. Culturally, we struggle with friendship. One recent study found that 49% of Americans had three or fewer good friends, which means that the number has basically doubled since 1990.
I added a category to my prayer list that month called “legacy friends.” Friends I have had for decades who poured courage and hope into my soul over the years. Friends who shared fun and meaningful moments on the journey of life and work. Friends I have disclosed disappointments and failure with. Friends who have helped me stay true to my convictions and values. Friends who have made me a better husband, dad, neighbor, business partner and follower of Jesus. Friends who have occupied space in my life story since childhood. Some have been maintained and some have passed on. But my life today is undeniably shaped by them.
What makes a legacy friend? Simply having known them for a long time? We know that can’t be it. Might I offer an idea? A legacy friend is someone who has shown up in your life. And not just once but over and over again. Someone you have depth, breadth and/or inflection moments with.
Depth – You have gone deep together. There is pain, scars, iron on iron (as Oscar Wilde said after all, “True friends stab you in the front.”). It’s not just conversation of news, weather, sports on repeat (there are plenty of people for that). Legacy friends are those with whom you’ve penetrated the deeper layers of who you are and what you are going through. “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”― Helen Keller
Breadth – You have known them a long time. They have seen you “over time,” seen you in the highs and the lows, the mundane and the thrilling. They know your personality and tendencies not because you took an Enneagram test together but because you have journeyed together. They have context for you. “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” –John Leonard
Inflection Moments – You are different because of moments or seasons with them. They have shifted your life’s trajectory. It could be the way you thought about something or the way you were behaving or even the direction you were you headed. But the intersection of your life and theirs for even a moment created a lightning bolt of sorts that altered you. And you can point back to it.
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Albert Schweitzer
It’s been a fun month thanking God for my legacy friends. I have been reliving some fun and meaningful moments. I have reached out to some to say hi. I have prayed for what I think they need in their stage of life.
Those are legacy friends.
In addition to legacy friends, it’s also important to have proximity friends. Someone can be in both categories, but if you find that most of your legacy friends are far away geographically, you need to invest in some proximity friends. In an always connected/social network/flat world we can stay loosely linked to layers and layers of contacts, which has its place, but nothing takes the place of a proximity friend who is in your living community. We all need someone we can spend real time within the same room. Not on a screen.
- Walking or driving by a proximity friend’s house to say hi is lifegiving for both parties.
- Hanging out around the table for a couple hours after you eat, like we did last night with three proximity/legacy couple friends, waters and warms relationship roots.
- Celebrating birthdays and special events together with proximity friends increases our gratitude.
- Running into a friend at a local restaurant and stopping long enough to swap pictures and latest stories is often better than the meal we just had.
Having proximity friends should actually be a deciding factor in where you live. Too often, though, we prioritize other things (salary, career move, nicer house,etc.) and trust that friendship will work itself out. I was stunned to hear my friend Evan say some time back he and his wife chose community over everything else when picking where they live. These are two uber successful people who could live anywhere. But they rooted down in a neighborhood (and have been there years) to reinforce their conviction that nothing is more valuable for them and their family than real community. Only then, do we realize how much friendship, both proximity friends and legacy friends matter.
As you enter 2022, who are your legacy friends? Who are your proximity friends? How do you need to cultivate them in the month(s) ahead?