One is silver and the other’s gold

m-o-d-e.jpg

We had dinner with some friends last night. F-R-I-E-N-D-S. Our kids became friends first, but then we had an immediate bond over Mexican folk art. Strange, but true. We both have homes filled with masks, hammered metal, woodcarvings, and books. She walked into our oddly familiar living room, looked at me and said, “What are you doing Friday night?”

That’s what I miss the most about being a pastor. Having friends.

My husband and I are very social people, and over the years, we’ve made a lot of our friends at work or at church. Now that our church is our work, we don’t do that so much. I have friends in my congregation, of course. I mean, the church’s pretty amazing, filled very fun and interesting people. But I usually don’t hang out with them on my days off.

Since we often need to be available when others are done with their business hours, between the two of us, we have meetings almost every night, and we work on weekends. Our house is rarely clean, so other than a constant stream of neighborhood kids, we don’t have people over very much.

We have wonderful clergy friends, but they have the same nutty schedules, and it’s impossible to get something on the calendar with them.

And then we have to move a lot. And if we’re not moving, then our clergy friends are moving. So just when you find another pastor who’s not utterly work-oriented, and can squeeze in a movie every once in a while, then they move away. Or you have to move. And the whole friendship-making process starts all over again.

Our lives get so busy, and we’re public figures, we’re surrounded with people, and so we hardly realize that we have… no friends. Pastors are usually introverted and being around people takes a lot of energy. But we can easily slip from that comforting solitude to distressing loneliness.

So, in every place we’ve moved, we’ve had to figure the friend-thing out. We have friends who are far away, but we need friends who are close by. It’s important. Otherwise we become isolated, our view of reality becomes distorted, and we start living in that really strange church-bubble.

We’ve found friends in our neighborhood and in art communities. Now, most of my friends are at my daughter’s school. Other moms and dads. I actually didn’t realize that they were that close, until I got in a bind one day. Someone died and I had to have a babysitter. So I called about ten other parents and neighbors, explaining the situation to the various cell phone answering machines. And then, when I was in the shower, my answering machine became flooded:

“Of course.” “No problem.” “Bring her right over.” “That would be great.” “Anything for a friend.” “Anytime.” “Please, call me if you need anything else.” I let out a deep sigh of relief. Because it’s just so much better when we have some friends around.

So, what do you do? Do you find it difficult to make friends? How do you stay connected?

photo’s by m o d e

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7 thoughts on “One is silver and the other’s gold

  1. That’s a tough one. I think if you tend towards introversion, making that connection is challenging to begin with. The itinerant life doesn’t make it any easier, nor does the busyness of contemporary society.

    I had to go through seminary part-time while working part-time and raising kids, and I found that the leaping to and fro from one element of my life to another meant that I could socially engage nowhere. I couldn’t hit the happy hours with my secular work colleagues, because I had to get to class. As a part-timer, I was off-sync with other folks at seminary, so I’d start getting close to someone one semester…and then wouldn’t see them the next year. Moving into the pastoral life hasn’t necessarily improved that…but I increasingly view much of my “work” as fulfilling that need for basic human engagement. I…well…like my church folk, even if come at things from a very different angle sometimes. Increasingly, I am just myself with them, and they’re that way right back.

    That “community of friends,” to get all Quaker about it, is kinda what we’re supposed to be about as church, isn’t it? After all, Jesus didn’t say, “What greater love is there than this, than one lay one’s life down for the demands of an ecclesiastical organization and it’s structural and bureaucratic requirements.”

  2. I’ve decided that there’s no way I can survive if I’m not connected to my friends. Mostly, now, this happens via the internet or, much more rarely, the phone, because my friends from before seminary are everywhere but California.

    I think that as a gamer, my hobby will help me. I plan on keeping firm to gaming every week. It keeps me sane. I’m not the sort of person who wants to live at church 24/7. I love church, am a church geek, but I just have a better idea of what I need to do for the long haul.

    I think there is a lot of pressure, internal and external, for clergy to be eternally available. Except in the case of true emergencies, I’m not sure its healthy to be that way. I feel like a congregation needs to learn to respect a pastor’s personhood and space and integrity. Sometimes I’m not going to leap to answer the phone. Sometimes I’m not going to be available for another committee meeting. Sometimes we’ll have to reschedule – because if I don’t spend time with my wife she’ll lave my sorry behind, and because if I don’t have friends who are unconnected to the church (by which I mean ‘work’) I’ll devolve into a gibbering maniac.

    God is always available, but I am not 🙂

  3. Thanks for this….

    my friends are a group of college friends and spouses that keep it real with me. They are my family in a lot of ways and while we currently we live mostly in the same city – we have always made a committment to see each other every other month if not.

    They keep me sane – know that I become quite quiet when I am not in work mode and even though I am extroverted – need to just be!

  4. I don’t have any friends where I live. Everyone is married with children, and while they say it doesn’t matter, it does. But I have my old friends, college and seminary and summer camp buds, who all live close to one another (but aren’t friends with one another.) And there’s always online. I seriously think I’d shrivel up and die without the internet.

  5. I have the same issues. I have like – one friend — who isn’t a pastor or family member. Someone I got to know through step-son’s school. but we hardly ever get together, plus it got complicated, because she also knows my husband’s ex-wife.

    I think I could have other friends, but it is exhausting. I tend a little toward introverison, and I am at a large church, where I interact with a lot of people…

    but I know it’s not healthy. I have “friends” on the internet now, which is cool, and I’ve even met a few of them, but that’s not like having friends over to our house (not that we’d have that much time, but it would still be fun).

  6. I was a social worker before seminary. So I was “born” into the priesthood with a knowledge of the importance of having friends not connected to my work. I’ve done bit of that, through a book study group and a yoga community (with a bit of overlap in both). But it is very hard. Yes, clergy colleagues are important. But yes, they do shift in locations. It’s hard here, knowing how much to hold back and look for relationships outside the parish (especially since I’m single, and don’t even have family to keep me separate a bit), and how much to surrender to the ease of making a parish my social network.

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