“Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” -- Hebrews 12:26
When my friend Dale Rosenberger guest preached at our church this past weekend, he talked about curating friendship as essential to life. With permission, I share some of his insights, which remind us of two things: how lonely many of us felt during CoVid, and how inept many of us feel at building and restoring friendships in the aftermath. Consider these thoughts on friendship, an overlooked gift from God.
“Sometimes God lets the world be shaken to reveal his most essential and eternal truths. For the truth is God often discloses his ways through life’s choppy waters, not our smooth sailing. This is my paraphrase of that complex text we hear from Hebrews. With the worst of COVID-19 behind us, God has let foundations shake. So what truths stand tall after this costly ordeal? What has been unveiled?
“Here’s what I have noticed, mostly by deprivation: we need friends more keenly than we realized. Friends are essential to who we are. Our best selves live and breathe connected with their best selves. I preach on this today because it is an elusive truth key to living our lives well. Second, friendship is among the most under-discussed concepts in the Bible. Third, living as we do in a cell phone society creates a hyper-individualism hostile to communities where friendship forms.”
“Friendships are precious. They take effort to establish and time to grow. They are hard-won. And then we can count on mid-life’s deep upheavals to test them. Too often these changes are too much for even well-rooted friendships to endure. Maybe you’ve noticed how some of the dearest folks in your life gently fade away.”
“What does it all mean? The sad truth is it might be normal for friendships to fade, even under favorable circumstances. Maybe the real aberration is when we keep friends across decades or across an entire lifetime. Yes, friendship is more precious and fragile than we reckoned. That is the rare light by which we see today.”
Rev. Dale encourages us to curate our friendships. I imagine taking care of a hot-house plant. It flourishes under adequate light, water, and perfect conditions of temperature and humidity. Some plants even flourish after a long, dormant season, tucked into the back of a shed. But don’t count on it. The greater the neglect, the greater the possibility of loss.
That is not to say that there aren’t friends we can call after not being in touch for a decade, and we take up where we left off as if we were together only yesterday. Those enduring, intimate relationships we can count with one or two fingers and certainly on one hand.
Most friendships take a bit more effort than that. Friendships may maintain with an occasional text or email, but they flourish with a call or visit. We show up. And when we show up, we treat the other as if they were the only one in the room, the world. That friendship, properly curated, will likely endure not only for a day, but for a lifetime.
Prayer: God of love, you give us life, and new life through Christ. You give us companions along the way for our joy and your good pleasure. Thank you for our friends.
God’s grace, mercy and peace,
Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Senior Minister, Community Church of Vero Beach, Florida
Rev. Dale Rosenberger
Clergy, Retired, United Church of Christ