Monday, December 08, 2008

Meet My Friends

I find many people on the Internet who suffer from a deficit of friendship. To some degree, I’m one of them. I’ve been studying friendships and relationships in order to come to a Biblical understanding of what a friend ought to be. In planning a post on this, I discovered the need for personal context. So, before I post what I’ve found on friendship, I'll convey some of my personal situation out so you understand where I’m coming from. Many do this to a painful degree. Many shouldn’t. Many who do, do so because of a personal friendship deficit. I assure you that my personal walk goes much deeper than what I write here, but this gives you enough to apprehend what I plan to say in the next post(s) regarding friendship.

I have many friends. Just a few of them are on Facebook, and that’s over 200. Many of the people I see on a regular basis are at church. Others are Christians in my town and region who don't go to my church. I have friends in my family throughout the region as well. These include my wife's family. I have friends in my family in other states. I have friends around the world from High School, college and my days in the Marines that I have reconnected with through the Internet. I have other friends that I have made through contact primarily on the Internet, either through mutual interest or a mutual friend. I have friends from other countries in Canada, South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and other places that I have met through missionary endeavors. Franco is my friend. He owns the cleaning service that cleans my office. When I see him he always says, "Hello, my friend!" You could say that my wife is my best friend. She knows more intimate details about my life than anyone else, including my brother and parents - and she still loves me. I have a group of men I meet with each week. We pray for each other and lift up our churches, communities and nation in prayer. These are my friends. I meet with another fellow for discipleship. He's my friend.

I have friends that share different aspects of my life occasionally. I have friends that share my love for music. I have friends that share my desire to know God better and may challenge my thinking. I have friends that share my love for our Lord and encourage me by our mutual worship of him. I have friends that share my desire to go to the ends of the earth and make disciples of all the nations.

While I have regular contact with many of these friends, however, there are few with whom I can share much of my life. Meet my closest friends:


My wife, Lois:

As I’ve said, she knows more intimate details about me than anyone else. We learned in pre-marital counseling that it is unreasonable to expect a spouse to fulfill all of our emotional needs. We need to maintain close friendships outside of marriage that support the marriage. Ideally, these close friendships should be with people of the same gender. In other words, I need to have close male friendship somewhere.


My Reunion Group:

Tommy P, Tommy H, John, James, Eddy, Chris and Steve are my Reunion brothers. The title “Reunion” comes from the notion that we are united in Christ even when we are apart and we come together in reunion regularly to hold each other accountable, encourage each other and pray with each other. We are to support such things as our marriages and involvement in our churches. As it is, we typically only see each other for a couple of hours each week, so we generally aren’t involved in the mundane or tangential aspects of each others lives.


My Brother, Mark:

We’ve known each other all his life. We’ve been through a lot together, having been uprooted from a small Midwestern town and transplanted in the red clay soil of the American Southeat, enduring the death of our mom and the formation of a combined family when Dad remarried. We worked at the same burger joint together in high school and hung out with the same barflies before we matured spiritually. We were each other’s best men. He lives a bit far to get together on a regular basis, but we get to see each other from time to time. I’m slowly absorbing a book on boundaries in which it investigates family dependency. It says that when emotional dependence within a childhood family results in a failure to learn to establish healthy boundaries, then proper boundaries have not been created within the family and must be established there in order for good boundaries to be learned and established elsewhere. I don't think we're at that point, but there is a sense in which a godly friendship must go beyond the familial.


Margaret:

An older lady, she was my neighbor and fellow church member since 1979. I watched her kids grow up being only a few years younger than I. Her daughter’s oldest is about the same age as my oldest. I was around when her husband passed away. We’ve sang in choirs on and off together since I was in high school. Now that we go to the same church again, we sing together at church as well as with a small Christian choir called Cantamos that occasionally sings in different locations in our region. So, we see each other a few times a week at church and elsewhere.


Kim:

My Internet buddy, she’s a friend of another woman who goes to my church. We share the mundane things in our lives nearly every day. I don’t have contact with another person as often as I have with her. With all my friends I still spend most of my time alone. She fills some of those lonely moments with a burst of life, an assurance that someone is still alive out there who cares enough to ask how my day is, even if from hundreds of miles away.



Shelby:

My adopted Internet daughter, she’s had some ups and downs in her young life, but I’m excited to see how well she continues to grow and mature into what we pray is a godly woman.


That’s pretty much it. These are my closest friends.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve learned of a deficit in close male friendship. I have my reunion group, but there’s a sense in which one may need more. I’ve often overheard friends talk about getting together at each others’ houses on a regular basis for a ball game or going to see a movie or some such. These are things for which they have common interests. Any time in the past where I have enjoyed friendship with others, we typically did whatever interested them. Most friends lack interest in the things that interest me most deeply.

Primarily, none share my penchant for creative recategorization of information for the purpose of observational synthesis. To this end I have provided my own example through the juxtaposition of Bloom's Taxonomy and the scientific method. How many got the reference in the first sentence? How many even understand it given the explanation? Let me try again. I'm an accountant of information. Inasmuch as accountants recategorize monies to track cash flow, analyze trends and synthesize budgets and business strategies, I do the same with information. Is that more understandable? With whom can I share this or which of my friends can appreciate this to the extent that they can help me make such cogitations useful? This interest of mine spills over into a multitude of activities from improvising, writing and performing music, to physical analyses, to philosophical mind-benders to theological truth-seeking, to the desire for mission endeavors, to the sense of humor that very few seem to find particularly humorous. (Puns – when the pun is so intricate you have to explain it, it just loses its oomph altogether.)

A close friend is someone who knows where you hide the key to your back door and knows they are welcome to use it. Close friends have boundaries that are much closer than for the majority of our friends. My deficit of such a friend continues, although I am resigned to the fact that it simply won’t happen outside of God’s providence and that such may not be His plan for me. Once, I sought godly counsel where my counselor expressed confidence that it would happen and encouraged me to be more gregarious. I’ve found, however, that gregariousness increases the quality and opportunity for friendly contact in social situations, but doesn’t necessarily generate close friendships.


Next: David Moss encourages us to seek friends who can give us godly counsel.

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