Sages say that in a lifetime, one will have innumerable acquaintances but generally only a handful of true, life-long friends. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the friends are always together. In fact, many miles and many years may actually separate them. But when they do manage to get back together for a visit, whether long or short, those true friends will seem to pick right up where they left off when they were last together.
Such is Jim Blizzard, a friend whom I first met while I was in my early adolescence and my family was attending the church in Knoxville, Tennessee, where his father was pastor. After several years in the church together, our paths diverged when I moved to South Carolina to attend college. Jim attended a college in New Jersey. And we never saw each other again for many years.
When I was living in Pennsylvania, one night I attended a meeting in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area at which the chancellor of my alma mater was speaking, and Jim was there! At first, I didn’t recognize him; he was not in the familiar context in which I had known him in Knoxville, and I had not expected to see him. He was as surprised as I was. Our visit together was brief but enjoyable, bringing back many memories. We saw each other again a year or so later in Cape May, New Jersey.
Many years passed, and my family and I dropped in to see him and his family in Lakeland, Florida, while on vacation. The Blizzards hosted us overnight, and the next day we attended church with them where Jim was pastoring. Several years later, he dropped in to visit us in Tennessee when he was attending a conference there. A few years after that, we again met when both of us were involved together in a youth conference at the church where we had originally met.
Then last Wednesday, he and his wife, Debbie, came for a longer visit. Debbie was in town for her high school class reunion. Jim and I had our own reunion over the next couple of days, recalling many of the people and events of our early life in Knoxville. Sledding. Playing baseball. Teasing sisters. Attending church youth meetings and Bible school. Staying over at each others’ houses on Sunday afternoons. We also caught each other up on the many marriages of our children since we had last been together–his six and my four.
In each of the instances when we bumped into each other, some planned but others seemingly merely accidental (I actually prefer the designation providential), it seemed that we just picked right up where we had left off with our friendship. And that’s what happened this week. That happens with true, life-long friendships. There are shared common values, common interests, common backgrounds, common beliefs, and–most importantly–a common Savior.
Here’s to such friendships. Thank you, Jim Blizzard, for being a true friend. May our friendship continue over the years the Lord sees fit to grant us.