I have been wanting t write about friendship for a long time. The more I thought about it, I became concerned that I would offend someone who has shown friendship to me, and that is the last thing I want to do. What I do want to do is to clear my head a little, but also, if you need encouragement in this department, I want to encourage you. I know I do. And if I do say something that makes you feel pointed at…..please remember that I have three fingers pointing back at myself. I will do my best to not let myself off the hook, but I can’t guarantee that you won’t find anything prickly in my words. I am also happy to be responded to and challenged in what I say or think. That is part of my reason for writing.
Having made that caveat, I named this the first blog. I don’t like blogs a mile long, and I won’t write them. So this is the first ‘episode’. And I think that I will just make introductory remarks.
When I was young with three small children at home, we moved to a place about an hour from where we had been living. We went from a neighborhood to living in a house on greenhouse property. The house needed help and the greenhouses needed renovating. Needless, to say , my husband was shoulder deep at the greenhouses and loving it. As I watched him from the house, I always saw him moving about amid a huddle of workers. I didn’t have any kind of casual conversation outside of my husband and young children. I remember being in a long checkout line at the grocery store and I made some kind of remark and everyone got this alarmed look on their faces that said, “She talked! I can’t believe she talked!” We were not far from where we had been living, but we didn’t know where anything was. We didn’t know what was a mile in any direction. I went to a Women’s Bible Study and one time the teacher, who was a good teacher, spoke on friendship. At another time in my life, I would have thought it a great study, but at that time, it stung. I cried all the way home and never went back. I really hadn’t thought of that until I was contemplating writing this blog, but I remember those emotions very keenly.
Zip through thirty years and I have found myself in another patch of comparative isolation, but it has come much more subtly. I had been teaching in a small school that a friend had started. And we had been going to an inner city church that we had played a part in planting. They had been works of delight to us and we felt a rhythm with the people with whom we worked . We shared just about everything. Due to structural changes in both of them that seemed unsustainable to us (my husband and me), we ended our relationships with said organizations… we thought. But it seemed that we ended any kind of friendship at all. I felt caught between my feelings and not really knowing exactly what we were doing. One day I said to Joel, “I just need someone to listen to me and tell me where I am crazy or not!” It soon came, dear friends showed up and told me I wasn’t crazy. That was a great encouragement to us, but it didn’t bring us into a community.
Some months later, my husband developed a herniated disc in his back. In this pain, it was all he could do to get to work and back. We didn’t make any evening engagements of any kind. Sometimes he couldn’t make it to church, but lots of times he would stand in the back for a while. Pain is isolating. Probably pain of any kind is isolating and maybe once in a while we need this reminding. But coming on the back of recent experiences, it was a lonely time. We were going to a church where we didn’t know anyone. The pastor had visited us with a listening ear. But I would think about stuff like. “What if I died? Would anyone I know notice? Would strangers bury me? Who would take care of Joel?” Remember, I still live in the same area I have lived for practically 30 years. It might be absurd to have such thoughts, but that is the level of isolation I was feeling. I was beginning to think a lot about friendship and why I am in circles where it is tied to what I do and if I’m not doing it, why people in those circles don’t seem to have time for me.
Meanwhile, other things were going on. A few years ago, three houses on our short block went up for sale. It’s a small enough space that one nasty neighbor can make life difficult for everyone else on the block and here we were, faced with three changes. Well, as one neighbor puts it, we won the neighborhood lottery! In this time, we have had potlucks and game nights. They stacked our wood when Joel couldn’t. We have supported the local politician and the new mothers among us.
Well, this is about as long as I dare make a blog, so you will have to wait for Episode 2 . There is a lot more to be said.
Over and out.