Best Friends for Life

What brings sustaining spirit in the midst of the highs and lows of your life? Those stable forces that, not unlike we experienced over the weekend, when those strong winds blow and the patio furniture of our lives get moved around one way and another, our center stays grounded and deep? I think that’s what this best friends for life sermon series for Lent has at its heart. And, what the Lenten study groups have the possibility of living out in real life. Much of what we see in the scriptures, in both our Hebrew history of the Old Testament and the gospels and New Testament, have to do with the relationship God has with God’s people through prophets, wisdom writers, and Jesus and his disciples, both those named and those with whom he interacts all along the way.

Relationships, most particularly friendships, are those building blocks that challenge, develop, break apart, teach, invite, reject, struggle, and often sustain us through the course of what life throws at us. And yet, they are also sometimes the power that goes most unnoticed and/or taken for granted in the living of our days. What happens if we take time to reflect and think about their influence? The goods and the bads of how we have been friends or not so much when others needed different things from us at different times?

Given the “lenses” of friendship through which I’m looking at the scriptures in this season, I’m so taken by Moses having the strength of relationship with God to stand in front of the Creator of all things and challenge God to change God’s mind about “consuming” the people when God was filled with anger at their blatant rejection. How deeply must we be invested in one another to have the willingness to stand before each other and challenge us to our best selves, rather than to let happen our worst? Are we willing to have that force of relationship to mitigate our highs and our lows, to remind us who we are at our essence and bring that out of us even when life is most challenging?

As in the scriptures, our lives in relationship are the stories that help make us who we are. Those people who have come in and out of our lives throughout the course of our years, some staying for the duration, others perhaps for only a chapter or two, and yet their influence is part of what helps us define ourselves, see ourselves from a more objective perspective, and then decide, either consciously or even sub-consciously if that’s the way we want to be or if we want to choose to be different. Part of the challenge of those relationships is our willingness to receive the best and the not so much best of the other person. To deal with our expectations of their weaknesses as well as their strengths, the moments when they are at their best alongside us, and the moments when they simply can’t be and realize we are the same way for and with them.

There are friendships I reflect upon with some sadness that I was unable to be or to receive the reality of the ups and downs of life and jobs and family and experience and they faded away because of being left unattended and died from attrition. There are others by which I’m tremendously humbled at the generosity of spirit and patient understanding of the highs and lows of my particular way of being in life, my inability to prioritize anything but my job, and my rather stubborn impatience of receiving feedback that allows me to grow in new ways when I wasn’t certain I really needed to. Those are unmerited gifts in which I see a reflection of the grace that I see in Jesus with Peter and the other disciples at their worst as well as at their best.

I’m spending some time this week with some very dear and old friends that have stuck with me through a bunch of highs and lows and in-betweens. Interestingly, while she was in education for a number of years, they each have served in different capacities in law enforcement too, although have never been able or willing to help me out of speeding tickets, what’s the deal with that?!? I have overlooked that flaw *snort* and they have overlooked oh so many of mine. I’ve never taken time away during Lent in all my years of the ministry, but somehow this year it simply hit me that practicing what I preach might not be bad for my spirit. While it’s only a few days, my goodness what a change in scenery and deep and light conversation, reflection, and some challenging questions about how I see the world can do for perspective and spirit. It is so easy to get “silo’d” in how we view the world around us and decide the limited way and time and place we experience things is the only possible reality. I do not believe it was by mistake that God, and the living Word that is Jesus, surrounded themselves and both allowed and empowered human beings to be part of their conversation, their decision-making, and their understanding that to make the dream and vision of God’s realm coming to earth even as it is in heaven takes a “chosen” partnership with limited folk like you and me. There is a deep value and dynamic to more lives connecting with one another to live into God’s call than our trying to do it alone.

Maybe it’s time. Time to take a break from polarized rhetoric and distant judgment and reacquaint ourselves with God’s created order in community. Deep relationships that go beyond the surface to a vulnerability that brings out perhaps our greatest weaknesses AND ALSO empowers our greatest strengths. Maybe it’s time to call someone we haven’t talked to for a long, long time but who knew us in a way that has been vitally important, and tell them. Maybe it’s time to let someone share perspectives with us that are different than our own which might cause us to think in ways we might not otherwise, for the sake of the world.

I’m grateful for a few days away with dear friends. And I’m grateful for a God who empowered and empowers us in our most human selves to grow with and through one another into a grace beyond the self.