My daughter’s getting ready for school today. First grader, at last.

She’s thrilled. And this year, we’re even letting her ride the bus with her two new best friends from next door. They moved in last week.

I rarely wish that I was six again, but I must say, I do admire the ease in which these children slip into friendships, like a new pair of fuzzy slippers.

It doesn’t always work, of course. Sometimes there’s bad chemistry with children and when they’re together, a world full of irritation and tears erupts–all those infuriating emotions that grown-ups have learned to suppress in their social settings, along with their openness. But, for the most part, my daughter makes friends quickly. A simple, “Hi. You wanna play?” usually does the trick.

I wish it were so easy with me. It takes me a good long time to feel comfortable with people, not as a pastor, but outside of the church. As friends. I’m good at acquaintances. But I’m talking about the call-in-the-middle-of-the-night sort of people or the borrow-whatever-you-might-need kind.

I was just becoming that kind of a friend to my neighbor (after two years!), but then she moved to Turkey. And now I’m stuck, starting over.

I’m not a removed pastor–one of those who doesn’t believe in socializing with church members at all. But, on my day off, I’m not thumbing through the church directory either. I like to have my closest friends outside of my particular church. I find that my life’s much more in balance that way.

I’m very lucky to have pastor/friends. The hard part about having pastor/friends is that they’re always moving (or I am). So, I have this tangled web of brilliant people that I’m close to all over the country. But that doesn’t always help, especially when I might need to borrow something extravagant quickly.

Seriously, it’s wonderful to have so many scattered relationships, but the physical presence of a good friend cannot be underestimated. Being fed by their smiles, and amazed at how witty comments come to them so effortlessly. An evening of reading blogs could never surpass a good dinner party.

I wonder, will we move around less when we get older? Will we be able to maintain our friendships longer? I hope so.

The other complicated thing about minister friends: Have you ever noticed how very difficult it is to share an evening meal with one? Nearly impossible, with our odd weekend and evening schedules.

But, I’m very lucky to have some pastor/friends here in D.C. I’ve served in isolated rural areas before, where I didn’t relate to anyone. I’d walk into Local Governing Body meetings and find a sea of blue hair. Then I’d go to the Local Minister’s Association and realize that it was completely made up of 50-year-old Charismatic (in every sense of the word) men. I would spend the next hour listening to how much God had blessed them and watching them compare their church sizes. It was not my idea of a good time….

In Messy Spirituality, a friend tells Mike Yaconelli that he just wants six pallbearers. At the end of the day, he wanted six people who were close to him, who would be there for his funeral, who could carry his casket.

That sounds good to me.


5 thoughts on “Friends

  1. I’m with you on not being a “removed” pastor. I do have “friends” in my church. But notice the quotation marks. They aren’t close friends…that wouldn’t work at all. In my previous call, I had some women clergy friends. and we did get together for meals sometimes. two things though: it was rural ministry, lots of driving, but slightly less hectic, and we were all single. Makes a difference. I don’t have women clergy friends right now, so much. I wish I did. It’s clear that we are colleagues, and it’s a public relationship. There are two women (nonpastors) that I consider friends, but we aren’t THAT close. (sigh.)
    so, I get it. would love to hear more on this.

  2. I don’t mean to sound as though the glass is half-empty, but what I have had a dificult time finding have been people to drink a beer with. The in-between friend.

    I have been blessed with some great friends. A number of years ago I fell off our roof and broke both elbows. A number of friends called and said they would anything I needed. They meant it, and I knew it. They were people inside and outside my church with whom I could share my deepest fears and struggles. I could confide in them, trust them, and vice versa. What a gift!

    But you know, sometimes you just want to drink cheap beer, watch the game and not talk about the problem of evil.

  3. Aah…the public relationship. I know about those!

    When I first began as a pastor, I was told to find a mentor–a successful woman, who would teach me how to be a good pastor. That’s when I ran into “the public relationship.” As a result, my pastor mentors have been men. It’s sad.

    I wonder if that’s common….

    Patrick, gheez. Both elbows? That sounds excrutiating! But very nice that you found a solid support system in the fall.

    And I agree. Beer is good. I just got back from a lunch with my writing group, and I’m feeling very lucky on this account. I have a few beer buddies.

  4. Yeah, adult friendships are tough when negotiating work schedules, family life, etc. After more than a year in a new town, I’m just starting to make friends.

    And I think it’s really important for pastors to have friends who are not other pastors. It’s so easy to stay within the church bubble. Let’s face it, most of our parishioners are not only hanging out with churchy types and I think it hurts our preaching/counseling/general relating when our whole world is stuck in the bubble. But it’s easy to do because those are the people we meet …

    Hope first grade is a wonderful experience for your daughter.

  5. You are so right, lj.

    Actually, I started writing the post because my daughter decided she wanted to take the bus. I relented because it’s WAY more convenient for us, but I’m really going to miss hanging out with the other moms on the playground after school. It’s a major source of non-church friendships. Now I’ve got to find something else….

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