Dear Ministry Friends,
I have taken the time to know each of you as we have desired, one by one. I have listened to your stories, thought about you and your families, and I have truly cared about your personal and familial journey. I cannot enter a club. I will not enter a club. I cannot fail to acknowledge the tendency for us to act as one. I only want to build meaningful relationships with people. You have known me and used events and circumstances to get to know me. We have built a connection but you have not nurtured that connection. Some of you I cannot stand to look at. You thought it was easier to rely on group efforts to see me than it was to nurture a personal connection. Don’t get me wrong. Not everyone is going to build a connection. That’s ok! Not everyone has to be close at the end of the day and I love those relationships as well.
The event-zoned friendships that upset me are the ones where you truly got something out of me personally. You shared your heart and you encouraged me to share mine with yours. We shared in vulnerabilities and laughed together alone by the desires of our own heart. Then, circumstances made it to where I was no longer needed to fill in that hole. Great! Let me know! It will soften the blow next time.
But you cannot event-zone me, group-zone me. I will take it further. You cannot play rock, paper, scissors and then tornado me with sister-in-christ zone to end the conversation. It doesn’t work that way. I was always your sister in Christ. That circumstance never changed. If you do that, that is by definition a “user.”
We all get to a point where a close one no longer fills the hole that they used to fill. It is of courtesy that you honor that person and continue to nurture that relationship once this has happened. If a loyal friend was good to you before, they will be good for you again. Or check this out: we turn the tables around and see how we can enrich their life. That is the true meaning of friendship. We don’t group zone them once we’re done with them. We offer closure if we do.
Dear Believers That Struggle In Relationships,
I should know some of your hearts by now, but I don’t. That’s ok! I have not been impatient about this but I have observed it. Some of you may not wish to grow your relationships or if you do, you haven’t fit others in the process.
For those of you who want more meaningful relationships, ask yourself what is more important to you: a handful of mutually good friends or a network? They are both good. Extract those relationships from your network which can be nourished, according to your desire.
A strong network is awesome. Coming from a big family, I can tell you that I see our ministry more like cousins than I do brothers and sisters. Why? Cousins are like siblings but without all the work. Cousins can rely on the family network to come hug you and catch up with you and then drop away for 6 months.
But a ministry network…we must love each other. Not just as a whole, but as individuals. Friends, when you commit to using a person to share in your vulnerabilities, you must wash and nurture the person you have benefitted affection from.
Book Recommendations for Believers
If you have a desire to build more meaningful relationships in your life then I strongly recommend reading Aelred of Rievaulx: Spiritual Friendships. It is pure in its wisdom and unique in today’s world in that it never strays from the topic of friendship to discuss romantic relationships. It truly helped me understand what it means to be a friend amongst my brothers and sisters in Christ.
In these two letters, I was tempted to write the stipulation that married people get a free pass in disconnecting from their friends to focus on their family. But even my married loved ones know how to nurture a friendship where they have exclusively benefitted from my attention. Perhaps that is why they are married. I hope if you are married and reading this that it is obvious that your family unit is a perfectly appropriate reason for closure.