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Lunch With a Friend

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend. That is not breathtaking news. There was no special occasion. There was no news that we were dying to tell each other. When the lunch was finished, I was not profoundly moved, had no penetrating insight, or strong resolve to go out and save the world. It was just a lunch. I had soup, not sushi.

The lunch was perfectly ordinary, just like the soup. There were no sushi qualities to it. I associate sushi with something extraordinary---something special and unusual. I like sushi, but it is not an ordinary lunch fare for me. Most of the time, I am just a soup kind of guy. And so is my friend. And so was our lunch.

Economically it was a loss. I bought both lunches! It would have been cheaper to go to lunch by myself. I smile as I type this because I know when we go to lunch again (when, not if), he will pay for the lunch. And I know that day it will feel like a gift that he gave me---a free lunch! He probably felt that way yesterday; I gave him a gift.

If someone were to watch this whole hour-long event, it would be easy to conclude the lunch was entirely ordinary with almost no interesting exchange. God was barely mentioned. Spiritual stuff was woefully lacking in most of the conversation. We talked about his kids and my kids and on and on. At the end, we shook hands and vowed to stay in touch and have lunch again. And of course, I will have at least one more so he can pay! And then we drove away.

So why did we do it? And why am I bothering to talk about something so apparently banal (I love using that word!)? I know that on one level, there was nothing very significant about that lunch and about our conversation. However on another level, I know exactly why I had that lunch and that conversation. I did it because we are friends. And I am sure that is why he did it. We are friends. And that is deeply significant to me. And that is profoundly spiritual for me.

So it was not the soup or the small talk. The soup was so-so and the conversation ho-hum. But it was a great hour. And I came away one more time grateful for the friendship. Real friendship is great and gratifying. Like soup and small talk, so much of real friendship is characterized by the ordinary. For sure, there will be times friends go to a sushi-type lunch and the conversation will soar to dizzying heights. When those times happen, it will feel more like a trip to the altar than to lunch!

So I had lunch with a friend just because I wanted to. There was simple desire. That desire was not complicated by any agenda. I was not wanting anything. It was not a networking opportunity. There were no “angles.” Authentic friendship is one of the clearest, cleanest relationships possible. And that is the key to why we had lunch. Friendship is relationship.

In my mind the moment we begin to talk about relationship, we implicate the spiritual dimension. That is because most of spirituality, as I understand it, is more like soup and less like sushi. Yet, it seems many people see spirituality as more like sushi. Perhaps some even see it like caviar! In fact, most of us ordinary mortals are not quite sure we even know what caviar is. If you peak at a dictionary, you can read that caviar is the “processed salted roe of large fish (as sturgeon).” There is another definition I like. Caviar is “something considered too delicate or lofty for mass appreciation.”

The point is spirituality, like friendship, is much more like soup. It is what two or more humans do in relationship in ordinary ways to make life sustaining and nurturing (using the food metaphor). In fact, that is why meals are such a spiritual staple. Two or more people get together to eat, to share, to care, to listen, to counsel, and to celebrate. It is so simple, but it is so deeply significant. I understand perfectly why Jesus told those gathered disciples in John’s Gospel, “I call you friends.”

And I like knowing Greek, so that I can tell you the Greek word for friend, philos, is one of the Greek words for “love.” So friendship---authentic friendship---is always an act of love. That is why it is spiritual and significant. Yesterday I had lunch with a friend: it was a love feast! Soup, friendship, love, the Spirit! No wonder I felt like I had been to a banquet.

It would be easy for a bystander to say there was nothing very special about that lunch. But to me, it was amazing. How many times can you get quadruple hit in life: soup, friendship, love and the Spirit? It cost me money and I felt like a rich guy. It took an hour and I got a clip of eternity.

I really do think this is the small, secret, spiritual stuff of life that Jesus, the Buddha, and so many other spiritual giants knew, lived and preached. And to most of us, it seems so ordinary that we set off on quests for sushi. But it is more simple than that.

Just have lunch with a friend. I did and I will again.

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