It has been about a week since I have been able to see some of my dearest friends and family since moving to Connecticut back in August. There is something particularly sweet to seeing friends you have not seen in a while in contrast to seeing them day to day for years on end. But clearly, there is also something profoundly sad about their absence.
As C.S. Lewis once mentioned, friends walk “side by side, [as] their eyes look ahead.” There’s an aspect of friendship which means that I can be away from my dearest friends and know we will never be too distant – that even when we re-meet after many months or years there will often be a sense of connectedness simply off the fact that we are on the same journey. But even so, there is an element of it that feels that even though we stand side by side, we still walk on separate sides of the road.
My most intimate friendships, whether explicitly talked about or not, are ones of shared waiting. And during this Advent season, that just seems the proper thing to blog about.
I find it ironic that I have begun the final third of the Lord of the Rings (“Return of the King”) during Advent season – especially as I consider these things. The conclusion of “The Two Towers” left me particularly aware of the active waiting of friendship as Frodo and Sam approach Mordor and consider what the storybooks might tell of their grand adventure that, in that moment, seemed ever so far from possible completion. Would they accomplish their task? Would the dark shadows of Middle Earth be finally done away with? Would they even have a home to return to?
I think Sam and Frodo would agree with me that friendship consists of some common wait or longing. I can not prove it, but with words like these from Samwise Gamgee I can not help but read into it:
“But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”
Waiting brings us together. Whether it is waiting together for the midnight release of Star Wars, waiting for your food to finally arrive at your table as you converse, waiting eagerly for Sauron to finally lose the upper hand, waiting for Christmas morning to open presents with your siblings, or waiting for the day that Jesus would arrive and make all the sad things come untrue, intimate friends share the wait together. And in our case and Frodo’s, without friends who wait with us, seeing the end would be a far harder – if not impossible – journey.
So whether you have those sorts of friends or not, I would hope you know that Advent season is not just a season of waiting for a distant King’s return, but for the friend our hearts have longed for. A friend who waits with us and for us. And on this Christmas day, that wait is promised not to end in despair. He has come. He will come. And like any good story, the more grueling the wait, the far grander the ending will surely be.