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I never had better friends than the buddies I had in college. I never had deeper, richer fellowship than those days when I explored college and life and faith with friends in my Christian fellowship group. And since then, I’ve come to realize that nothing will ever come close to what I had when it comes to fellowship.

I miss those days, painfully at times. I miss the college fellowship group – where in our innocence, naiveté, and youthful energies, our relationships transcended mere friendship and touched the ideal we professed in – loving fellowship between brothers and sisters.

A Hallmarky phrase, perhaps, but back then it was real to us. We held hands in circles as we prayed and it didn’t seem cheesy. We hugged constantly, literally soaking shoulders with tears – and it didn’t seem corny. I remember midnight treks in the snow under a canopy lit up by a blaze of stars and a mercury moon, worshiping God. Spring break missions trips to hell and back, but together, always together. Another time, around a campfire, a group of us praying, our eyes open, looking at one another with tenderness, overcome with love for one another. So many other moments, where the intercept of idealism and friendship and spiritual passion made for a beautiful collision. In those times, I truly felt like I was in heaven with spiritual brothers and sisters. Fellowship wasn’t an overused and emptied word, but a living ideal, breathing, flowing, pulsing, invigorating. It was a given that we’d all be lifelong friends.

I never thought we’d forget each other so quickly after graduation. No, that’s not quite right. We never forgot each other, we did something worse. We drifted, became indifferent to one another. Within a couple of years, we no longer mattered to each other. And now, today … we might live in the same city, but never bother to meet anymore. Be part of the same fantasy league, but not even a quick email to say hi, even when head-to-head. Members of the same church, even, but hanging out in different circles. We were spiritual siblings who once thought we’d literally die for one another; instead, we’ve become redundant to one another.

The last scene in The Age of Innocence is one of the more poignant ones in all of literature. Archer sits outside Ellen Olenska’s apartment – a woman he has not seen in 25 years, yet a woman daily in his mind because of the deep, passionate and youthful love they’d once shared. Sitting on a bench below her apartment, he visualizes going up to see her. He pauses. He realizes that the memory of her is more precious than the present reality. There was something sacred about his past which the present reality would only sully and desecrate. In the end, Archer gets up and returns alone to his hotel.

Sometimes I feel like Archer a little bit when I decline college reunions, or Facebook notifications. Responding yes to such invitations would no doubt put me in the loop again – but it’s a loop of obligation and perfunctory hellos and obligatory Christmas cards and scripted small talk. Something is lost, not gained, by answering yes. Something lost: the tears, the laughter, the canopy of stars, the love, the idealism, the worship, the ridiculous sense of belonging . . . the fellowship.

And that’s why I decline reunion and Facebook invites. Because as much as I miss my college friends, I treasure the fellowship we once had even more.

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