Sunday, 20 March 2011

Friendship - with a sigh...

Once upon a time, when I was younger, just out of school, making friends without a second's thought, keeping them with long chats, letters, smiles and laughter, I thought friends were for keeping. For ever and happily ever after.
I wish.
(On the other relationships would not be the same. We would be 'facebook' friends who never have time to meet face to face or word to word save for the odd one-liner. Time does not expand to accommodate all the relationships we have.)
Yet now, in the middle of the story of my life, I still know that friends are for keeping.
Some of them.
Some are for losing - natural wastage - as I move from on situation to another. From workplace to workplace they fade away; from one stage in life to another, they move on; from one life focus to new direction, as interests wax and wane - they wave their quiet farewells. Usually, I send them on their way, rejoicing that I have known them, however short the duration of our acquaintance.
I now know that friends are for a season. Seasons of time, seasons of place, seasons of interest, seasons of life circumstances.
I keep those friends for ever and happily ever after in my memory, my thoughts, my smiles, my laughter. Though the friends are no longer part of my life, I cherish the times we had together.
Loyalty and faithfulness, to state the obvious, are gifts I am glad to have.
Yet sometimes it doesn't happen like that. Some friends do not lose their immediacy.
Because some friendships survive the removal times. They survive the change of house, neighbourhood, school, work, exercise class, book group...(even that). They survive through letters, emails, Christmas cards, maybe even the occasional brief phone call, snatched meetings - maybe even once every ten years.
These friends - heart friends, beneath the skin friends, joined at the hip friends - are ever lasting, happily ever after, for all eternity friends.
Often, usually, predominantly, friends of the faith. Fellow Christians. For these are friends who are closer than a brother (or sister).
So what is hard, doubly hard at the moment, is when friendships that I thought were solid, true, close, supportive, caring, loving, almost perfect...when these friendships do not survive a change of church.
The change was not for any wrong reasons. No, it was not because we had become dissatisfied with the worship (it's not for us anyway), nor the preaching (my responsibility is to HEAR properly, not criticize those who speak the words God gives them), nor even bad relationships. It was simply a response to God's call, so, reluctantly, we moved. Perhaps for a season - we might be back. We don't know.
It's a hard move.
So it's been a shock when I return to visit - which I do regularly - and become invisible. Those brothers and sisters seem to have forgotten that I am part of the family. Their lives have moved on, without me.
That's a shock, but it's inevitable. I can cope with that. I realise that not everyone uses the same industrial strength friendship glue as I do. Their loyalties lie in other directions.
No, what hurts is the friend I'd thought was a 'keeping friend'.  The friend I drank coffee with, walked with, laughed with, cried with, prayed with, the friend I thought loved me.
The friend who, busy with her life, almost acts as if I am ignoring her because I do not meet her at church any more.
Yet I long for her support, her acceptance of my move, her love.
We're still friends, but it's not the same, There is a new tension. She says things which make me feel unwelcome around her. She is irritated with some of my new friends. She doesn't text or call.
So what now?
I have always believed that god standard - better than gold standard - friendships reach a level of intensity that is make or break. The godly response is to make. It takes two.
Watch this space. And read this blog post over at incourage.. .

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