There are times in life when you may have to decide if you’re going to invest in a friendship or if you’re going to let the opportunity (and effort it takes) pass you by. It’s a realistic dilemma. We all have a limited amount of time, after all, and can therefore only keep up a select number of relationships well. If you live in a transient area, say, in a college town or one with a military base, it can be tempting to let the out-of-town acquaintance stay just that, as an acquaintance.
But what happens when we let our guard down toward those who have a limited amount of time with us? Incidentally, they are the same folks who could likely really use a friend.
Because my husband and I are both quite outgoing, we tend to gravitate toward new people, whether at church, in my homeschooling group, in his work place… Early on in our marriage, we both found that we had taken to becoming quite close with several military families, who would in turn eventually leave us. As we’d make a new military friend, we began to jokingly say, “So, you’re the next folks who are going to break our hearts, huh?” The reality is, when we’ve made such good friends, the parting really is more sorrowful than sweet. We hope that our paths will cross again someday, but as we have come to know over the years, the Navy is anything but predictable when it hands out new orders.
So why do we continue to put our hearts on the line and invite these people into our homes and lives when we know they may only be here for two or three years?
Matthew 25:37-40 discusses one reason we ought to. “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
Though this should be reason enough to welcome the “sojourner” in our midst, in the case of my Navy wife friends, they’ve made it too hard to resist anyway! These are the gals who know how to jump right into commitments and friendships and know how to put their best foot forward. They recognize that if they wait around for things to happen, they likely won’t get very well-rooted before it’s time to leave again. So, instead, they roll up their sleeves, begin to volunteer, offer to bring others in need a meal, ask questions about what restaurants, parks, sporting clubs and the like are the best, yet who are really, secretly hoping that their offers and questions will be met with a, “Why don’t we check out that park (or restaurant) together? Are you free next Saturday?” from the local. Out of the deep and lasting friendships I have made of this kind, these women are ready, willing and able to take up the friendship, if there is a worthy one to be had.
To be clear, I don’t invest in these women because of what I’ll get out of it. It just turns out that in attempting to be a good neighbor to the military women, I wind up being incredibly blessed by them in ways I had not expected.
I found the courage to run my first half marathon because the beautiful gal on the far right in the photo above spurred me on to do it. She then ran the race with me (setting a swift pace!) and helped me to complete a worth-while goal, thus ushering in what is now a beloved hobby for me. I’m eternally grateful.
As I reflect upon the big trips my family took last year, the bulk of our travels were prompted by our desire to visit some of these dear friends who are no longer stationed in San Diego. We went to DC in October and while there, stayed with and visited three sets of friends who are now like family.
The same can be said of our time in San Antonio over Thanksgiving. We were there to visit my brother and his family but we also met up with former San Diego friends stationed there for an academic tour.
These precious people have enriched our lives in ways I simply can’t articulate in full today. Because of the travels and experiences they have faced in their commitment to being military families, they have beautifully enriched my life and the lives of my husband and children.
They have traveled more broadly, grieved more acutely, fare-welled more frequently, and shared more openly than most of my other peers. The goodbyes are difficult, but there is always the hope that perhaps they will be brought back to us again. Even if that day never actually comes, however, we know that our time together will make up some of the sweetest memories in life.
So, “Cheers!” to investing in those who may not be here for long, but who may very well have an impact on us that will last a lifetime!
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2