Forty. It’s one of those biblical numbers. Forty years of wilderness wandering led by Moses. Forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness. Forty days from Jesus’ resurrection until his ascension. And others.
This forty wasn’t biblical, though. It was a forty I could hardly believe. Forty years since I graduated high school. At first, I thought the math was wrong. Surely we were getting ahead of ourselves! But then I did my own math and realized that it was really true that I graduated forty years ago, class of ’77.
I almost didn’t go to the reunion. I hadn’t seen anyone from my graduating class since our 20 year reunion, except for one classmate that I ran into at a book signing several years ago. I was friends with just a few on Facebook, but since I no longer live in my hometown, and had not attended one of the feeder elementary schools for my high school (which deepened relationships among many of my classmates) I was ambivalent about attending. Plus, I’d come out of the hardest couple of years in my life just a few months earlier. I wasn’t sure I was up to the conversation in such a large group that I hadn’t connected with in so very many years.
But I went. And I’m glad that I did. One of the unexpected gifts of the wilderness journey I went through and have come out of has been reflecting on who I am and where I’ve come from. Not necessarily where I geographically came from, but a looking back at my life, and deeply looking within, both with the aim of helping me to know myself more fully, and at the same time, know God more fully and how God has been present with me in the various seasons of my life. I’ve learned a lot, though there is still much more to learn.
I learned a little more this past weekend as I joined some of my classmates for the reunion. I was reminded of how our group shares a common geography. We all lived in a not too big area of East Point, Georgia. We were solidly middle class, for the most part. No country club memberships, no cotillion, no multi-week summer camps (at least I wasn’t aware of any of these among my classmates). I’m not criticizing any of these, and my children were the beneficiaries of some of these in the city I live in now, but it was not a part of my growing up years, nor that of the classmates I spent the most time with.
Maybe because of what we shared, I felt a bond with those who gathered, even the ones I had not been close to in high school, even the ones I didn’t get a chance to talk to at the reunion. As I drove the hour-plus drive home afterward, I reflected on my history. I’ll do more of that over the coming days and weeks. And I won’t let twenty years pass before I reconnect with the classmate-community that shaped my teenage years and influenced my life in many ways.
One of the elements missing from most of my adult life was that connection to high school and college friends. When I journeyed a difficult path I came to a greater appreciation of my friends. Friends were my lifeline when life’s circumstances seemed overwhelming. Gathering with my classmates, celebrating where we came from and where we are now, I know my web of relationships has grown. I look forward to deepening the friendships I renewed this weekend. I certainly claim the truth of Proverbs 18:24: There are persons for companionship, but then there are friends who are more loyal than family.