I just finished Rich Lamb's "The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends." Having come of age as a Christian leader under the tutelage of Rich's brother Dave, the stories in the book resonated with me as examples of Christian fellowship in action, replete with mission, honesty, laughter, and good Bible stories.
Each chapter of the book has good reflection questions, so naturally I spent a lot of time during my reading of the book thinking about friends and friendship. I have to admit a little dissonance with the majority of the anecdotes in the book that were of college settings or of people in full-time ministry. For those of us who work full-time and have spouses who work full-time, time to cultivate meaningful friendships can seem like a distant luxury, even if all the more necessary.
Compounding matters for me are some inherent difficulties of investing in the kinds of deep relationships that one can often enjoy (which in fact I did enjoy) when you are younger. First, many of my longest-standing friendships are with people who live far from me, and try as I do to maintain ties through phone calls and the occasional visit, it takes a lot of work. Second, closer to home, many of my close Christian friends, say some of my fellow congregants, are here today and gone tomorrow, due to the relatively transient nature of our neighborhood, so for example it can be deflating to have to build intimacy within a small group when key people are constantly moving away. Third, those friends of mine who are physically close and are likely to be stationary for the time being, such as the parents of my children’s friends, are not often Christian and so I lack that important connection with them.
As an introvert, it can be hard to summon the energy to work on friendships after a long day or week of work. But as Rich Lamb’s book and the Bible both suggest, friendships are important and worth investing in. Even as I face the challenges of making and keeping friends, I realize I am rich in relationships, and grateful for the many really solid people in my life, so I hope this post is not construed as having a complaining or discontent edge to it. I’m just pointing out that making and keeping friends takes effort, effort worth putting forth, but effort nonetheless, especially for people like me.