Friends come in the least-expected forms

I miss having regular conversations with Heather, who I consider one of my very best friends. Now that we both have cable modems, we keep in touch fairly regularly in spite of the five hundred miles between us. I love reading her blog to see what random thoughts are on her mind, but it’s only a weak substitute for the late night conversations (and early morning conversations, and over-BBQ-at-Sonny’s conversations, and in-front-of-the-TV conversations, and driving-in-the-little-red-pickup conversations…) we used to have so often.

Hebs is just one example of the friendships that play such an important role in my life – although she’s surely one of the best examples. I’ve always counted the people who are close to me among my greatest blessings, sometimes to a fault. I’m a perfectionist, you must know. Growing up, I also demanded that same perfection out of my friends, and I was let down when they (inevitably) failed. When Christ got ahold of my life, I found that I could rely on Him for that. Subsequently, my friendships have radically changed.

Those friends come from unexpected places. Heather and I lived across the hall from one another in the dorm at FSU. God is good – had we met in high school, we may never have become the friends we are today. ๐Ÿ™‚ (Heather was a basketball player and I was a cheerleader – if that doesn’t say it all, you know nothing about our high schools. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) Alison is a vegan and a Gator fan. Jesse is a political enthusiast. Andy knows everyone on campus and is a laugh a minute. Sarah is a year and a half younger than me and from Virginia. Chrissy is a drama queen in Texas.

Wait a minute – how did those last two get in there? I’ve never lived in Virginia or Texas… in fact, I’ve spent no more than one week combined in those two states!

That’s the surprise, my friends. I’ve crossed into territory I never expected to grace. I have internet friends.

When my sister started lurking in an IRC chat room that centered around Lois & Clark in the mid-nineties, I teased her mercilessly. When my parents allowed her to fly to Colorado to meet a friend from this chatroom, I questioned their parental judgment. When I decided to live with a girl I met on the internet, I realized I owed Cristin an apology.

What my barely-younger sister learned in seventh grade, I have discovered post-college: not everyone on the internet is scary. This has become yet another place where I’ve formed unlikely friendships.

Had you told me ten months ago that I would have as many of these long-distance friendships as I do, I would’ve run in the other direction. When I first stumbled across the site that did it to me, I was looking for lyrics to a Caedmon’s Call song. I spotted the message board that the site hosted and poked around a bit, but refrained from posting. Everyone seemed to already know one another, and the conversations were just too much to jump into. (Little did I know!)

A month or two later, I came across the board again. I had moved to Jacksonville and needed a new hobby or two to keep me occupied. The board had recently crashed and restarted, so I jumped into the fray. I posted under a pseudonym, “Jeanie”, and I freaked out the first time someone asked if they could call me. (You people are weird, I thought.)

But little by little, I found these people to be trustworthy. After running into a couple of posters at a concert, I decided it would be okay to go to one of the “fan club” get togethers.

Slowly, those friendships grew to the point where I realized I was a part of a community of believers… on the internet. It’s not about the “fan club” where we met, but instead about the friendships that have developed. Nothing can replace “real life” friendships – it’s vital to have people in your daily life who hold you accountable and point you toward the Lord. But these friendships have been not only a supplement, they’ve been a blessing.

I hesitate to call many of these people “internet friends” anymore. Our friendships have thrived after meeting face-to-face, even though the world wide web if where they found their start. If I never signed on to that message board again, there are at least a handful of friends who would continue to IM me and ask what is happening in my life, who would e-mail me about their days, who would call to voice concerns about the struggles I’ve been having.

Apparently I’m not alone in these thoughts. Although I’ve been thinking about these words for over a week, it may seem that I’m merely jumping on the latest blogging bandwagon. On Oct. 14, David wrote, “It really is amazing how certain things can draw us together, even over great distances, and a true bond can be forged.” So true, my friend – so true.

(For what it’s worth, David is one of many people that I’ve met at these fan club meetings. Everyone who is listed on my links list is someone who I’ve hung out with, regardless of how I met them.)

Geof speculated on this subject after dinner at my apartment this weekend. His final words require little explanation: I would have never expected this, never sought this – but I’m certainly happy with the blessing.

I’ve never spoken to Tim, much less met him, but on Oct. 18 he made a point that I think is crucial.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the whole internet thing is not that different to real life. Sometimes you meet people who pretend to be something they are not, and sometimes you get surprised by the fact that there is a lot more to them than you would have guessed. When it comes down to it, only time will tell. Secrets & idiosyncracies come out in the wash & people show their true colours sooner or later.

Indeed, these people have added themselves to my ever-growing circle of friends. Although they are still as far away (or farther) than “my girls” who have been so important to me over the past several years, knowing that there are that many more people who care is undeniably special. I don’t pretend to understand why God has provided me with so many long-distance friendships, but I am grateful nonetheless.


(Me and the “internet friend” who lives across the apartment from me – who knew that the web was the newest way to find a roommate?)

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