Sunday, May 4, 2008

Keeping Up

Over the years, I have been either really good at keeping up with friends, or really bad. I have noticed that the good times come when I don't have a lot else going on in my life, and the bad times when I am busy and running from one thing to another. I think this is normal for most people.

But the further away from school I get (both physically and time-wise) the more I reflect back on those friendships and treasure that time that I have with these people.

You know, we humans were created to be in relationships. God knows the importance of relationships and companionship. He knows that we need others so that we can continue to grow, love, and interact with people who are both similar to us and different.

Yes, humans were created to interact - sometimes it is because we need those relationships to lean on in tough times, sometimes hecause we can be the physical presence of grace in the life of another, and sometimes just to have the companship we all crave from time to time.

That is one reason why it is so important to build relationships with others. We are following our calling to live in community, and we are celebrate the gifts of God in the lives of others.

But relationships take work. We need to be able to forgive as we are forgiven, to love as we are loved, to bless as we have been blessed. It means that there are times we need to take the initiative and reach out to some we have not talked to in awhile, and it means taking time out of our busy lives to listen to friends who are having a tough time.

So tonight I started sending out a few e-mails to people I haven't been in touch with for a while. Sending an e-mail or making a call, doesn't take a lot of time, but the rewards are great. We get to reconnect, find out how people are doing, and celebrate what is happening in their lives.

So I hope you will spend some time reconnecting, and celebrating the gift of friendship with others.


Betty Dygart said...

John 15:12-13
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

Maintaining friendships is difficult work, especially from a distance. We all get involved in "our own thing" and soon past connections seem only memories. Then something happens to bring it all back.

For me, the past couple of weeks have been filled with death. There was the death of my son's orthodontist, a man we had come to love and respect during the two years of braces and the decade of post-check-ups. He was a most talented man.

A lady I used to carry communion to, Lillian Stout, passed away.

My college roommate of four years lost her mother.

My 16-year-old cat, a wonderful friend and companion, slept away, saving me from a trip to the vet to have him euthanized.

My closest friend in high school lost her husband, after a year of courageously battling cancer. While we have spent many years merely exchanging Christmas cards and the yearly "holiday newsletter," suddenly the old connections are necessary, and hour long conversations over the phone are needed.

Lynn and Dwight sang a duet at my wedding. They met at their church, attending choir, and both had a love of Christian music.

What Lynn went through this past year seems overwhelming to me, the repeated hospital visits for a new therapy, a new series of drugs. Living through that first surgery where Dwight lost his voicebox, and hence, his ability to speak and sing. And then, the cancer went into the bones of his spine.

She described for me his state of mind, during his last visit to UW-Madison hospital. He was angry, uncooperative with the nurses, and had them all afraid of him. Lynn gave him a "pep-talk," telling him that if he didn't get up out of his bed, for at least some of the day, he would never "come home again."

The Lynn I knew in high school completely folded in when faced with anything requiring courage. It's why we ended up being such good friends in high school. I was always the mouthpiece, whether it was approaching a teacher, complaining about some perceived "injustice" we were suffering through, or any time when someone had to speak up. So, I was amazed at her fortitude and determination, in the face of Dwight's disease and eventual, unavoidable death.

I marvel at her handling of her situation, the insistence that he was going to go home, getting him there, even opposing the advice of hospital personnel, the meetings with Hospice workers, the final bedside gathering of family, singing some of Dwight's favorite hymns, as he slipped from them into the arms of Jesus.

After someone has shown such fortitude and strength in the face of trouble, one might think they really don't need your friendship. But that is not the case. I will make every effort to stay in touch with Lynn. Who knows, perhaps it will be ME who gets strengthen by her?

In a devotion book I have, in discussing relationships and friendships, it says:

"We have many temporary relationships: those beside us on the plane or in the laundromat, the people who camp next to us at a resort, and the neighbors who move in and out with such rapidity. It's up to us to decide if these contacts will be meaningless or significant.

Ask God, 'What would you like to say to this person through me?'

He may ask you to speak words of appreciation and encouragement, to witness about Christ, or only to be friendly. When we look a person in the eye and ask about their lives, we show that they are valuable. And, in so doing, we have opened a channel through which God can reach him or her."

This is both exciting and humbling. To be an instrument of God is awesome work.

lula said...

Friendship takes risk. Each of us has to decide whether we want to risk the hurt and decide how much we'll let our friends into our lives. We have to develop trust and that takes time. We also have to get rid of "unhealthy so-called" friendships in our lives.