Friendship is a good thing. Friendship is a hard thing. It can be easy and shallow and wide and life is just always fun. But if you do it right, it gets messy and you don’t always say the right things or even have the right things to say.
Years ago Anthony and I started meeting with a few couples to have dinner, get to know each other better, discuss marriage, and build a foundation. The point was a long-term plan, so that if any of us ever ran into troubles, we’d have others we trusted and knew that we could turn to. Last week, the last couple of that group left our church. And as each couple has left the church, each relationship has become more distant. How did we lose touch? Sure, children came along and getting together seemed harder to do. But not impossible.
So, as I realized how these things had turned out, I asked myself why I’m not a better friend. Why don’t I do a better job of keeping the relationships going and sticking to people even when it’s not convenient or easy. This isn’t a guilt trip, but an honest desire to see where I can do better.
The quick questions: Am I trying to do this with too many people? For that original group of friends that was supposed to grow into an accountability group of close friends, did we not have enough in common? How do we meet with people we can share this stage of life in and prepare for the next stage of life? While also developing some relationship with people in other stages of life. What about all the people in church or in our community who feel left out? Some days it’s just easier to stay home.
Part of it is that I do best in very small groups, one-on-one is even better. I can sometimes do a beach trip type event and talk to several people in small conversations during the time, but then comes the effort to sustain something out of that. To build something.
I remember when we first moved to NC and praying that I would make a few friends. We were here for 2 years before I really felt I had made a friend. It was just one of those times when the people I worked with were in other states, weekends were spent with the nephews, neighbors were changing frequently. It just wasn’t easy to meet people and make good friends. At least not for me. Then slowly a few relationships started to grow. One or two years after that I could look at 3 really close friendships and a handful of others.
The harder questions: Where do I spend my time? How much time do I spend praying for my friends? Is the schedule too full of stuff that people get squeeze out? (Don’t ask me how many books I’ve managed to read this year.) Why don’t I pick up the phone more often? Am I ready to share more of my struggles with friends? Am I too afraid of not being liked to reach out to someone new?
This week I reconnected with an old friend I haven’t spoken to since junior high. We have had dinner with a young couple. I had a positive email exchange with a friend who needed someone to speak truth in the midst of a frustrating situation. While looking at pictures of Hawaii, the friend we traveled with called for a spur of the moment dinner with good conversation, then it turned into a movie night. We have had fun planning a Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends we don’t see enough of. I heard from a friend who needs to talk. Life is full, love is abundant, we grow and we learn.