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Long-Distance Friendship

Long Distance Friendship

The start of the New Year marked a change in a significant relationship. One of my dearest friends moved from our shared city to a town 676 miles away. After eight years of side-by-side life, we will now be separated by stretches of interstate. I delayed our goodbye as long as I could, but when I could no longer ignore her departure, I drove to her house one last time. The tears I’d held back for months fell heavily and freely.

As I pulled up to her house and parked behind the moving truck, I paused to dry my tears and pray for some counsel. I heard, “Keep it in perspective.” What kind and wise counsel! As we embraced, I was mindful that it wasn’t our final hug and that our friendship was merely changing, not ending. In the gravity of the moment, this counsel helped me keep my wits about me. History has taught me that friendship is no longer determined by proximity of persons.

When I was a child, my best friend lived next door. It was only a 100-yard walk from my swing set to hers. In a time before laptops, cell phones, Facetime, and Instagram, this was an ideal situation. In a dash I could be across the yard and in her bedroom sharing the latest gossip or my most recent heartbreak. We enjoyed this nearness for all of our adolescent years, only parting to move to different colleges. This parting brought a dramatic end to our friendship.

It was during my college years that I began to cultivate friendships that would be separated by miles and survive. However, to be honest, most of these were lost until the advent of Facebook, and now not many of these thrive beyond our newsfeeds. It wasn’t until my thirties that I met and cultivated lasting friendships with women from across the miles.

I heard, “Keep it in perspective.” What kind and wise counsel!

It began when I moved from Birmingham to Knoxville and left my best friend behind. Luckily the miles weren’t too great to prevent regular visits, and cell phones were now a staple. Then, I met a group of women at a retreat in Colorado, where we shared rich times of worship, prayer, conversation, and encouragement. Year after year our paths led us back to this retreat. In the interim, we cultivated deep, meaningful friendships that have now lasted a decade. Phone calls, text messages, and Facebook have kept us connected.

These women have been my greatest encouragers, my prayer warriors, my wisest counsel, and my lifeline in crisis. Within a few moments of sending a text, my inbox receives anything from an emoji of acknowledgement to a thoughtful response. They’ve taught me that it is possible to have enduring friendships despite distance, and they’ve taught me how. When we get the gift of time together, we don’t squander it on the superficial, but we go for the heart. Thanks to this experience, with my friend’s departure, I’m able to keep it in perspective.

Yesterday my friend called me from the parking lot of a shopping center. With the help of our smart phones, we were able to talk “face-to-face.” The day before I was able to pray for her during a difficult morning via text message. Today I expect to get a photo tour of her new house until I can get there to see it for myself. Is it the same as the weekly coffee dates we used to enjoy? Of course not. However, our new circumstances don’t mean our friendship must end. Instead, we are adapting and learning how to love each other across the miles.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 ESV

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Susan cherishes the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, the bloom of a Dogwood tree, and the taste of her mother’s pound cake. She betrays her roots by taking her tea “unsweetened.”

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