Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Friends For... Now

About a week ago, I stood in my friend Naomi's nearly empty dining room, stuttering and sobbing out a tearful goodbye. K was outside helping her husband and the other guys haul their belongings into the rented U-haul. Our daughters were sitting on the carpeted living room floor playing.

I thought back to five years before when I came over there for a scrap booking party. We were both single professional working girls living on our own for the first time. We went to the same church, were the same age, had both grown up Pentecostal and lived two minutes away from each other in the same city. She was like my long lost White sister from another mister.

And she was leaving me for Pennsylvania.

What made this departure especially hurtful was it also was the latest in a long string of friends and family high tailing out of Jersey. In the last five years, despite Governor Chris Christie's claims of a great Garden State, many of those closest to me have left for Virginia, Delaware, Massachusetts, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, California and even straight out the country.

Now, at age thirty, I've been left wondering, "Why don't I have friends? And am I too old and stuck in my ways to make more?"

Yesterday, in seemingly divine timing, I came across this article at the Her•menutics blog by Enuma Okoro. She describes meeting a woman at a writers conference and immediately clicking with her.

"Ruby and I had so much in common, it was eerie. We could have talked for hours as though we were old college girlfriends. There was no question we would exchange information and really hoped to remain in touch. But we also simply had not had enough time together to pretend that a long-distance friendship would follow suit. And yet, it was an enriching couple of hours in which we both felt met by God in one another’s presence. In sharing the gifts and the challenges of our current life stages, we both felt seen anew and reaffirmed in our unique strengths and passions.

Two weeks after my encounter with Ruby, I read an article in The New York Times about the challenge of making friends after age 30. The writer, Alex Williams, makes several valid points about the difficulty various life seasons can bring to how we cultivate new friendships and maintain old ones. But though I could relate to a number of his points, I didn’t agree with his rather depressing conclusion, that “No matter how many friends you make . . . the period for making BFFs, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.”

Yes, the challenge of nurturing friendships when folks move away, couple up, or have babies can be frustrating and at times painful. But as a busy woman in my 30s, I am not looking for the kinds of friendships I had in college or in my 20s, anyway. I am not looking to make new BFFs. I am more invested in the hard work of deepening the old friendships that have seen me through the awkward and beautiful seasons of life. Meeting Ruby is one example of how I am learning to embrace the reality of a shrinking community of friends with the ongoing appreciation that I will probably continue to meet people I’d love to befriend if I had multiple lifetimes. But the reality is, I have just this one. And in this lifetime, I have learned that long-term friendships do require time and effort and commitment.

... In truth, my “Best Friend Forever” is really a conglomerate of amazing friends who nourish my life in essential ways. This is not to deny the difficulties of friendships. Through at times uncomfortable experiences, I’ve realized that some friendships are seasonal, and I continually seek to discern when that is the case. Like anything else, if we try to grasp onto something beyond its season, we often do more harm than good. Certain friendships fall into this category. And as I reflect more and more, I realize I desire to be viewed as one of a handful of deep friends within my social community. I could not bear the unrealistic burden of being any one’s sole BFF.

... We all need people in our lives who help point us toward Christ, and toward living into the fullness of whom God has created us to be. More times than not, the issue at hand is not whether you continue to make new BFFs, but rather how we open our lives, our schedules, and our imaginations to call all varieties of people “friend” as God calls us the same."

Much truth there. And thank God for Facebook, Skype and FaceTime. :-)


Jesus-in-the-city said...

Is this why you didn't answer my invitation to dinner next month, girl??? You could have just said so! Hahaha

But seriously, P and I have kind of come to the opposite realization. We want to open our doors more, invite more people over whom we don't know very well and may not know Christ, in order to spread his fragrance and show a genuinely greater personal interest in people's lives than the common "how are you today?" in the elevator and inviting the odd person, who really doesn't know us so well to church.

And on the other hand, we want to have more, deeper fellowship with other believers we may not know so well. We were having small fellowship dinners a few months ago and they usually turned out really great, with us feeling closer to our brothers and sisters, encouraged through the common trials we all face and closer to God. Both P and I have a nagging feeling that it's going to get harder and harder in the foreseeable future to be an uncompromising Christian in this society and we think all of the friendship, encouragement and prayer we can offer can only help.

On the other hand, trying to follow Jesus' example, I do have my three closest friends whom I try to focus on, love on and cultivate our friendships on a deeper level and I do think that's a totally different consideration altogether. But I also disagree with the hermeneutics article which i also read when it was posted. I think, as Christians, we do have to see ourselves as members of a common body with gifts we have to share and with a supernatural access to the greatest gift there ever was, which we don't want to get into the habit of hiding under a bushel from the lost in the world. I don't want to get to heaven and find out all the people we could have shared Christ with if we hadn't gotten sucked into the same "I'm too busy" factor and nuclear family perspective as the world.

In the end, our differences in insight could be because of our differencing lengths of time in the body of Christ. Maybe when I'm a Christian for twenty some years, I won't want anymore friends either! Haha

Alisha De Freitas said...

Hey Aja,

I don't think what you wrote is in conflict with what she wrote. She was referring to how complicated it can be to maintain long friendships through moves, marriages, kids, etc. Also, she wrote on how it can be hard (but obviously not impossible) to make new friends after 30. And how some friendships are only for a season. I didn't get any negativity from her piece.

What exactly did you disagree with? I'm just curious.

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