The crowd hushed into silence as the lights dimmed. Gold and white balloons were tethered to festive tables and a sparkly “Happy 50th” crowned a floral arrangement. Hands covered mouths to keep whispers low.
“Will they be surprised?”
“Do you think they know?”
“Are they here yet?”
When the happy couple arrived and discovered that friends from all over the state had assembled to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, their eyes moistened and their smiles broadened. Sheer joy froze them in place temporarily as they adjusted to the shock. Then, with boundless energy they began to circulate.
A look of delight resurfaced on the honorees’ faces each time they noticed another person in attendance, while guests enjoyed seeing friends they hadn’t visited with in years. Sparks of laughter and conversation heightened the energy level, and hugs and handshakes were as spontaneous as photo flashes. The son and daughter hosts beamed with pride at their parents’ response.
Laughter erupted as an old friend related the story of how the couple met on a college campus. When Ragan spied Susan, he’d questioned a dorm mate, “Who is that pretty girl you were talking to? What’s her name?”
“She’s from my hometown. Want to meet her?” came the reply. The rest is history, fifty years of history.
Eyes glistened as the son and daughter lauded their parents’ achievement of creating a Christ-centered home where children were cherished and supported. In those moments, we were all family. Warmth, joy, comfort, and gratitude filled my heart. Why did I feel this unexpected wave of emotion?
My husband and I had shared life with these folks, both honorees and fellow guests. We’d raised our children in the same church. We had celebrated the birth of children and grandchildren, and mourned the deaths of parents. Cheering our children’s successes and praying for their struggles had been a group effort. Some had been neighbors, and some had worked in Vacation Bible School or youth ministry together. We’d shared life’s “ups and downs” as we built marriages and homes. While traveling the road from “young married” status to senior adulthood, we had created the memories we now shared.
The bond of love with those friends was stronger than ever before. As my husband and I traveled home, we reflected on the events of the day and when we prayed at dinner, we thanked God for the gift of friendship among those who had shared faith and family.
I relearned an important lesson this week. Long-term friendships are treasured parts of who we are.
A friend loves at all times . . .
–Proverbs 17:17 (ESV)