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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Friendships, Changes

Posted Friday, March 20, 2009, at 9:32 AM

The subject of friendship has come up in several conversations of late. Maybe these early spring days have a way of focusing us on people who are spiritual gifts in our lives.

Friends: we would die without them, there are times you want to kill them, there's no amount of money that could replace a good friend. Virginia Satir, the "mother" of Family Systems in psychotherapy and counseling, wrote that we'd be fortunate if we had five best-friends throughout our lives. Richard Bach wrote that we'd identify our true-friends the very moment we meet them. "Important" writers have written about friends and friendships all the way back to the early Greek writings that used to be required reading in school. Yet how do you explain the replacing of a friend with another or explain when a friend is no longer a friend through no act of his/her own?

When I reflect back to fourth grade I can list those friends who made my life so good! When I look back to ninth grade I can list those friends who were co-explorers in the expanding horizon that was our world. When I recall my college years I can list those companions who shared the inner most parts of my being and I of theirs. When I remember my early thirties I can list those people who helped me in finding direction at key moments and I in their key moments. These four eras of my life each have four lists of friends. Not so unexpected is that few of the same names are found on more than two of my lists for as my life changed so, too, did what I needed and offered in friendship. What is unexpected is that the number of "slots" on my lists is about the same count era to era. Try developing such lists through some of the eras of your own life and be surprised that the number of persons considered friends at any particular era remains constant. "Those who know" write that each of us have a pattern regarding the number of positions available for those labeled friends. I pity poor Virginia Satir for my number of positions is vastly more infinite that hers!

Conversations in recent days have centered on recognizing when a friend from the immediate past is no longer in that slot. In my own journey some of the reasons for such are more obvious than others. Each geographical move brings closure with many good friends where we are thankful and honor the hours we've spent together knowing that we'll spend few hours together in the future. With each new degree and certification I've said goodbye to trusted individuals because our growth "forward" was taking us in different directions. Other reasons are less obvious. Sometimes I've changed and discover that I no longer have the same personal values and goals as I did in the past. Friends who supported those earlier values and goals become "distant" as I spend time with new friends who support my newer values and goals. (Ever notice how quickly this happens with friendships when children are born?) Sometimes unexpected significant change in my life has brought unexpected significant change in my friendships. (Notice how quickly your list of friends change after the death of a parent or spouse or the termination of a job?)

I'm thankful that I've had a full slate of friends at the major life transition points of my life (so far). These people are blessings from God that become my supportive community and, hopefully, I as a part of their supportive community. Pause sometime during the next few days to reflect on the people who have been your friends (either sometime in your past or even today) and be thankful for such a host of "sinners and saints" who have blessed you on your journey. If possible, contact a few and surprise them with your appreciation for what they have given you, especially those whose names are on lists from the past. And, in the spirit of spring cleaning, maybe you'll be making room for new friends to arrive.

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Sunshine for the Soul
Rev. P.T. Wilson
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P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.
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