My wife and I are planning to make some improvements to our garden this year, and one of the things we’d like to do is plant a new miniature apple tree. We like planting trees. It’s fun to anticipate what a newly planted tree will become in the years ahead. But there’s the rub: “years ahead.” Because if you want to eat the fruit from a tree, you need to give it time. A lot of time. You need to let it grow, put down roots, and become part of the ordinary, everyday scenery. It’s only after you look out of the window for years at the same old tree that you start to be able to reap the full harvest of fruit and shade and beauty and all that a tree can be in its maturity. By that time, the tree is nothing like new. The initial excitement of planting eventually gives way to a more settled appreciation and enjoyment of the tree as a part of everyday life.
Isn’t this true of friendships, as well? A new friendship is a wonderful beginning, fresh and exciting and full of potential, like the planting of a new tree. Don’t we all naturally long for relationship? To know and be truly known? To love and be truly loved, in spite of being truly known? Of course we do. But often we can get frustrated because our fresh new friendships aren’t giving us the depth we long for. How could they? A sapling can’t bear much fruit, or give much shade. Don’t blame the sapling. It needs time. There’s nothing wrong with fresh new friendships, but we have to recognise that the sweetest and most satisfying fruits of relationships (of any kind) can only come with time. There’s no substitute. Growing deep roots into each other’s hearts and lives can’t happen overnight.
If you really want deep community, you’ve got to stick around for it. You’ve got to keep leaning in after the excitement of the new has worn off, after the freshness of novelty is gone. You’ve got to keep seeing the same old people you saw yesterday, and last week, and you’ve got to keep enjoying them, and forgiving them, and choosing to love them no matter what. You’ve got to let your friendships grow and put down roots, like the trees in the garden. With time, and only with time, those same old people can become the deep community you long for. But it won’t happen until you’ve been around them long enough to be the same old you, with the same old them, for lots and lots of same old days. Eventually, you might just look around and see that those same old faces have become a rich community of your best old friends.