It may seem to the outside observer that my life is so packed with work and children that I must resort to desperate and odd measures to have some semblance of normalcy. This observer might imagine that I eat standing up 4-10 times a week. Or perhaps he/she/you believe(s) that I nap at any possible opportunity. Or maybe even that I pick sermon topics in order to explore ideas you and I wouldn't have time to think about otherwise.
If the observer thought any of these things, he/she/you would be 100% accurate.
I have just arisen from a much needed nap, am about to stand in my kitchen (whose days are numbered) and wolf down a snack, and I am thinking about friendship. I'll be preaching on it twice in November.
In recent days I have had very brief encounters with my friends. To be a minister's friend you need to be the kind of person who has many other things to occupy your time. You need to have a calendar to plan out months in advance for a cup of joe and a 45 minute visit. You need to be comfortable with last minute cancellations. And, MOST OF ALL, most days you need no ministering unto.
This week I've exchanged emails with the college buddy who is super-realtor in Manhattan. It is even harder being the realtor's friend than the minister's friend. We are perfect for each other that way, and he knows my secret college nickname, so I'll never cross him.
I had a great phone conversation with my maid-of-honor, college roommate, I-performed-her-wedding buddy who is 9+ months pregnant. WAITING was the theme of that one. Bless that darling. She missed our high shool reunion in June because she was working in the Cloud Forest. I was sure that was a euphemism for something, but it is just Costa Rica.
I took the long way home from work one afternoon and stopped by to see my favorite music guru pal at the local record store. Our friendship is sustained by a shared sense of humor, his constant presence at his place of business, and my constant presence at mine half-a-mile away. In the two years of our friendship, we've never seen each other when one of us isn't working.
I had a 2 minute check-in with my country undertaker from Dinwiddie county while driving back from a wedding. He was setting up his house for his youngest's 1st birthday party. We promised to talk again before November. Are you sensing a theme?
My friends are crazy-busy people. Friendship in my circles is no longer sustained by dinner parties, beach vacations, and weekly interaction. We are held together by the bonds of email, telephones, and eating standing up. Sometimes I am sad about this. Today I am just grateful that we are able to maintain any connection at all. Sound familiar? I hear that this has less to do with my profession than with our culture at large.
So that's me on friendship today. You want any more you've gotta' show up in Durham, NC or Glen Allen, VA in a month. (Like you've got time for that. The fact that you made it to the bottom of this post is a minor miracle, right? As a reward, I leave you with the funniest of all the friend stories this week, and this time the preacher is naming names...)
My friend Rex. I love this guy. Rex's life makes my life look like a slow inner-tube ride down a lazy river on an endless summer afternoon. I'm not even sure we are allowed to call each other friends. We spend YEARS trying to find time to have dinner. A glass of wine takes 6 months to schedule. I called him today to check in. (Yes, I was waiting for my next appointment, but don't be impertinent. At least I called.)
Here's Rex's voicemail: Hi, this is Rex. I am in the UK right now and don't have access to this cell phone. You can reach me by emailing me at .... or, if it is an emergency my UK cell phone is 5767877902-34847486189111-0076582490-940825739404-727553. Otherwise, leave a message on this line and I'll get it eventually.
I laughed so hard I triggered some system and it booted me, so I had to call back to rag on him mercilessly. Which, of course, I did. The funniest thing of all? The last time that I had time to call Rex was a month ago and then he was in some other foreign country with some other foreign cell phone with 43 digits. Good thing we're friends.