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best-in-your-face-’til-the-end-friends.

How many of your primary school friends do you still keep in touch with? And how about those from your secondary school, polytechnic, junior colleague, university, army or from your previous work place? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a single digit number. And like it or not, that number will slowly but very surely decrease as you age. As I turn 21 for the seventh time this year, I think I’ve learnt a fair bit about friendships – and how most of it takes places in phases.

All right, let’s get technical; when I talk about keeping in touch, I define it simply by the frequency of meeting up. Let’s just put a yardstick of at least once per quarter – that’s four times annually. (I actually believe that if friends can do it twice a year, it’s already an accomplishment. The younger readers of this blog may struggle to understand this, but mark my words on this. When you get to my age, remember you first heard it from me.)

By that definition, with the exception of those who are attending the same church as I am, I keep in touch with a grand total of zero from primary school, one from secondary school (who happens to be my best friend), none from polytechnic, army or from my Shanghai stint. Be it DL from ACJS, CC from ACS(B), JC from NP, ML from BMT, JG from SOA, JH and JQ from 40SAR, LT from OCS, or KS and TS from Shanghai; mind you, when I was in whichever phase, these buddies and I went through some significant moments of life together. We were convinced that we’d be more than just good friends for that period of time.

So I’ve learnt this – enjoy the friendships forged wherever you are at. Milk and remember it for all it’s worth. And know that these friendships are strong and that these friends are important, but at the end of that phase, remember that they are all but permanent friendships, albeit at that point closer than your closest church friends. This is a cynical and very un-sanguine, un-Joey, pessimistic way of looking at things, and I know may protest against this statement, but you heard it from me first – these friendships will not last.

The ones that will last, whether you like it or not, whether you stick around long enough or not, are the ones whom you see in church every weekend. At least that applies to me. These aren’t your seasonal friends – these are your friends for a lifetime. I remember mentioning this at the R-AGE DNA sermon I preached at the beginning of this year – that church friends, fortunately or unfortunately, unlike your friends from outside, are here to stay. You can always change a clique and hang out with a different bunch of school or work friends when you get sick of the current ones. But face it – you can’t get rid of your church friends and they’ve got to face it too – they can’t get rid of you. It’s just like how we cannot change our family members; we’ve simply got to stick to them and find a way to make it work.

And when I look back at the brothers and sisters that God has put in my life in this church, I’m filled with a deep sense of gratitude, because I know that I’m going to be growing old with them and my kids are going to marry their kids (whether they like it or not). The question that I leave with you is – look around you, look at your friends and look deep into their eyes, and look into your heart… How many true friends do you have? How many friends are you true to? After all, true friends attract true friends.

when the numbers add up.

There is no denying that I am really aging. I no longer can sleep at 4am and wake up at 7am feeling fresh. It takes a toll on my body and its consequences are usually perpetuated acne on my cheeks and bags under my eyes. Ulcers are less frequent now, so I am thankful for that. It’s interesting how I hardly get sleepy or lethargic in the afternoon though.

My body is no longer working as hard as it ought to. A slower metabolic rate means that I can no longer have supper like a king (sigh!) and not feel its repercussions gathering around my torso afterwards (double sigh!). My fitness levels have also declined. While I am not unfit, it’s obvious that I am past my physical peak of fitness; I don’t know think I will ever run 2.4km in 9:21, finish SOC in 7:53 or score 21 for pull-ups ever again. There are some once-in-a-lifetime trophies.

However, while my physical prowesses decline (I sound like I’m 40!), I notice an increase in my intellectual, emotional and spiritual awareness, especially in my awareness of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve always believe that confidence is an acute awareness of what you’re good at and what you need to work on.  I’m still much more Sanguine than the average Sanguine, but I’ve mellowed significantly; I remember LY exclaiming, “Joey, can you stop mellowing!?” Age brings about a certain calmness, levelheadedness and deliberate delays in responding to situations, events and people. Maybe wisdom is applied knowledge.

This gets me thinking about maturity and how from year to year I evaluate my growth. Hindsight is powerful – it would be a gift if we had present-sight. I don’t know about you but when in retrospect I find that I’ve matured relatively exponentially from period to period. It’s like I’ve either really grown a lot or that I was really immature last time!

During my short coffee-break with LL just now, I told him that I was thankful for a colleague like him who’s my age. I told him that since we are not married and have no children yet, we should aspire to give to and serve the Lord with high levels of zeal and zest that reflect our age, while we are still young and energetic and able to contribute like that. Taking our lead from what God puts in our hearts, this is the best time for us to make investments in time and energy before the marriage and family elements kick in.

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