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Face time

February 17, 2009

I’ll tell ya what I often struggle with.  Friendships.  It’s not making them or keeping them that I find difficult … I’ve got lifelong friendships that I cherish.  And I’ve made some great new friends since moving to Murfreesboro.  But, with work, young children and a wife I don’t see enough of, it’s giving those friendships the attention that they deserve that I struggle with most.

old-friendsI really feel the urge to spend an hour or two on the phone with some of my closest and oldest friends, catching up … but I rarely do.  And, it’s not because I don’t care.  These are people that I love and care about.  People I’ve spent an awful lot of time with over the years … people that I share some great memories with.  Though, I will say that, oftentimes when we do connect, because of the strength of those bonds, it’s as though we’ve just spoken yesterday.  We pick right back up where we left off.  And maybe that’s partly to blame for my failure to communicate.  I take for granted that it will always be that way … but, will it?  At some point, don’t you grow apart?   Sometimes, sure, you and those you once spent a great deal of time with simply go your separate ways.  You enter into a different season of your life and you leave them behind.  It’s tough to relate to your single friends once you’re married.  Or, to your childless couple friends, once you have little ones.  Understandable. But, don’t we all have people in our lives that were once among our closest friends, with whom a phone call is now a bit awkward?  You’re no longer in that inner circle.  They share the details of their days with people you don’t know … neighbors, co-workers, spouses.  And, if we don’t want years of real friendship to devolve into mere acquaintanceship, cards at Christmas or the once-a-year children’s birthday party invitation, don’t we have to make a commitment to cultivate them? Spend some time on the phone? And once we’re there, ask questions about their lives, as opposed to just talking about our favorite teams or the headlines of the day? I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

I haven’t made the commitments necessary and when I have gotten some face time with these friends, I’ve not asked important questions or talked about real things.   I recently got off the phone with a really great, old friend whose wife recently had a baby … my wife asked how they were and how the baby was doing … I didn’t know. And, I felt … well, like I wasn’t much of a friend.

But, where does the time come from?  We all have so many obligations, so many time traps in our lives.  And, if we do steal a few minutes away, we want to spend it with our spouse or reading that book we’ve been trying to get to, or exercising, or heaven forbid … on the couch for an hour, decompressing.  Between exercise, work, kids, schedules and occasionally, sleep … how do we make the time for even one of these friends – much less five or six of them?

Now … here’s the second part of that equation/dilemma.

What about the new friends?  The co-worker, guy/gal/couple from church or in your small group? It takes not only real transparency, but real commitment to develop meaningful friendships/relationships.  And, obviously, it takes time. Sometimes, you meet people with whom you share an almost instantaneous bond.  You really hit if off and it just doesn’t take much time before you feel connected.  And, I’ve been lucky in that way since moving from Memphis after 35 years.  But, I’m also a pretty transparent person.  So, there’s always a chance of that happening with me.

But, where I find myself right now, is in this no-man’s land, of sorts … those I’ve called friends for 15, 20 years – while still and always friends – are miles away and not a part of my everyday life.  And, I’ve not been here long enough, nor had the time to invest in really developing the type of brotherhood with anyone that fills in those gaps – though there are a few men I’d like to know better.  Guys for whom the same things seem important.

The struggle lies, for me, when I find myself with a few minutes I can spend on the phone or a free evening or afternoon …  they don’t come often, after all …  time for me? for old friends … for new?

My intuition tells me that the older plants are established … that they have blog-tree1deeper roots and that they’ll get more from the water they get, regardless of how seldom it comes … but that the new seed just won’t ever see the light of day without a bit more attention.  That maybe it needs watering a bit more often.

But, I also don’t want to miss entire, meaningful seasons in the lives of people I’ve spent my life with.

Something’s gotta give.  And I think it’s me.

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2 comments

  1. I think you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. At least, I felt my blood pressure rising as I was reading this post. It seems that there’s no way to strategize it out — you can’t schedule friendship development.

    I have spent weekends with friends, secretly strategizing about “developing our relationship,” only to find that it failed under the pressure of intense focus. So many of my very best friends are people who I just happened to be around a lot during a period of my life when I was honest about who I was and was willing to share a part of myself with that person. That’s really hard to orchestrate and reproduce in a different setting, a different stage of life.

    Two philosophies help me navigate the stress of trying hard to develop meaningful relationships:

    (1) To every thing there is a season. As a married man with young kids and a relatively new location and new job, this may be a season for you to focus on that and not worry so much about expanding your circle of friendship in a meaningful way. In a season past or a season still to come, you may find that your life is all about meeting new people, developing friendships, etc. Don’t try to do it all — just try to focus and work with what you’ve got.

    (2) Lean heavily on the Holy Spirit. Don’t know who to call during your free hour or who you should be hanging out with? Pray for guidance. Sometimes the person who needs you most in that moment is the person who are kind to right now, even though you will never, ever see them again. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring people to you who you can bless, as well as people who can bless you. Then you can just rest and open your eyes to the opportunities that are being placed before you.

    It’s also good to remember that friendship is not a one-sided coin. I can’t tell you how many people I would LOVE to be better friends with but they’re horrible at keeping in touch, always busy doing something, or just distracted every time we’re together. In some instances, no amount of focus, effort, or time on your part is going to grow that relationship. So, let other people do some of the work, too. But if you are looking for more friends, don’t be the guy who’s always too busy to engage with them.

    Breathe.


  2. Hey Jason – good word on friendships new and old. I’m right in there with you on giving relationships the time and attention required to get beyond superficial. I echo with you – something’s gotta give – and I’m sure it’s me too. Peace, David



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