Short term friendships

Back in my seminary days I did my supervised ministry at a nursing home in Lexington, Kentucky. In the course of a couple of years (I kept visiting there after my coursework was completed) I made many friends.

Pearl was the first one to shock me. On my first day there I sat down to visit with her. We talked about our lives up to that point, getting to know each other. Since I was in training for ministry, I thought prayer would be an appropriate part of our relationship. Instead of just imposing a prayer on her, I asked her what I could pray for her. “Pray that I die tonight,” she said. That was the first time I had ever heard anyone say such a thing, young and naive fellow that I was. So I went ahead an imposed a prayer on her anyway. Over the years I have learned – from Pearl and others – that it’s ok to pray for people to pass on.

B.D. was another friend. She didn’t have a name, just initials. She was in her 90s and the only family she had was her elderly son and his wife (who were themselves childless). B.D. had a lively sense of humor and was a joy to visit with. After a few weeks I showed up one day and went looking for B.D. but couldn’t find her anywhere. Finally I asked at the nurses’ station. They explained that her son had had a disagreement with the management of the nursing home and had moved her elsewhere. So I never saw my friend B.D. again. Though she was still alive, I suddenly found myself without the ability to say goodbye.

After finishing seminary I moved to my first appointment, a couple of small churches in NE Texas. I was such a youngster (though I had finished my Master’s degree by then), that people, upon meeting me, would ask to see my father. Surley I was too young to be the real pastor.

Since the church was mostly older folks, I made my friends among that set. I think I was closest to one particular family – two sisters and a brother. I took the brother  out visiting with me sometimes. Other times, we’d go to the high school sporting events together. But before I left (having been there only two and a half years), I had to do his funeral. His sisters didn’t live much beyond that.

Those are some of the problems you run into when you make friends with people in their 80s or older. You realize pretty quickly that this friendship might not last a long time. Some might ask, why bother? Why set yourself up for the pain of losing another friend?

I can think of a couple of reasons to make friends anyway. First, people who are short for the earth need friends too. I’ve had many older people complain to me that they’re lonely – that they’ve outlived all their friends. The solution to that is to keep making friends. I can’t very well give them that advice and then not be willing to be their friend.

Second, though we don’t care to admit it, we’re all temporary. While people in their 80s may strike us as more temporary (and their nearness to eternity uncomfortably reminds us of our own), we are no less temporary, and have no guarantee of any more days in this life than they.

So we followers of Jesus make friends. Some friends we’ll enjoy here for years and years. Some for only a few moments. But short or long, in the grace of God, friends are worth making.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Friendship, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Short term friendships

  1. “So we followers of Jesus make friends. Some friends we’ll enjoy here for years and years. Some for only a few moments. But short or long, in the grace of God, friends are worth making.”

    I too hear older folks frequently say they don’t like outliving their friends, and have found myself wondering at what age
    we stop making friends. Even though I know the answer – we should never stop making friends – I think we cease because it
    is hard work to be a true friend. I believe if we are truthful (those of us in our mid-40’s) we would admit that most of
    our friendships are based on selfish desire and motive. It is only when we look beyond our own needs that we find the grace
    to befriend whoever needs befriending. Usually our friendships are about our own needs. The key to me seems to be your
    reminder about true friendship as being “in the grace of God”. Then it will not have limits, parameters, or specifications,
    it will simply be what it is – a reflection of Christ!

    Thank you for the encouraging words. I will assume their are friendships to be made at every juncture in life.

  2. Polly M says:

    “So we followers of Jesus make friends. Some friends we’ll enjoy here for years and years. Some for only a few moments. But short or long, in the grace of God, friends are worth making.”

    I too hear older folks frequently say they don’t like outliving their friends, and have found myself wondering at what age
    we stop making friends. Even though I know the answer – we should never stop making friends – I think we cease because it
    is hard work to be a true friend. I believe if we are truthful (those of us in our mid-40’s anyway) we would admit that most of
    our friendships are based on selfish desire and motive. It is only when we look beyond our own needs that we find the grace
    to befriend whoever needs befriending. Usually our friendships are about our own needs. The key to me seems to be your
    reminder about true friendship as being “in the grace of God”. Then it will not have limits, parameters, or specifications,
    it will simply be what it is – a reflection of Christ!

    Thank you for the encouraging words. I will assume there are friendships to be made at every juncture in life.

  3. Polly M says:

    OK – I’m type happy today. Sorry for the double comments. I was trying to correct a type in the first comment, but soon realized that was not an option

  4. rheyduck says:

    My challenge in making & having friends is that after working full time and having a wife and three kids there’s not really any time left for friends. I suppose that if our family were more homogeneous, we might have more “whole family” friends, but that hasn’t worked out very well lately.

  5. Kim says:

    Hi Richard and Polly,

    Y’all can still be my friends 🙂 ! We find ourselves in the same boat as you Richard — the family and career demands eat us alive, and if we had time, those we’d want to be friends with wouldn’t.

    I love my PhD program, in large part because of the female friends I’ve made through it. Because we have 2 major and 2 minor meetings a year, and we share hotel rooms to save money, I have found myself in the delightful situation of spending a week at a time with female friends of like mind. And, all of us are separated from our families so we eat meals together, study together, and “hang out.” I used to think I’d lost the ability to make new friends. Now I realize my knack for friendship has just been lying dormant. It’s a very nice thing to discover.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s