I recently caught up with a friend whose wedding is quickly approaching.
After getting an update on the wedding planning fun, we moved on to more
serious stuff. Namely, how does one prepare herself and others for the ways their
relationships will inevitably change? Recalling all my friendships that have
flourished throughout the seasons, I realized that the secret ingredient in
every healthy transition is grace and faithfulness.
Scripture says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over
a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). When we choose to relate with Christlike
love, it unleashes a grace and patience for the clumsiest points of human
relationships. Whether moving out of state, getting
married or having babies, maintaining healthy friendships requires
understanding and effort.
The Bible doesn’t mince words when it describes how close God wants spouses
to be: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to
his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). He also called people
to leave all they hold dear for the sake of Christ (Luke 5:11). Fully embracing
these God-designed changes are a matter of obedience, but how do we thrive
where God has called us to, while rightly stewarding the relationships He has
blessed us with thus far?
Be All There
First of all, we must be present. Jesus exemplified being present throughout
His ministry. His very name, Immanuel, shouts of
presence. He is God with us. If we intend to represent His incarnational
character wherever we are, we must as Jim Elliot said, “be all there.”
That said, the act of being present isn’t license to neglect the
relationships God has blessed us with. Proverbs says that a friend loves at all
times (Proverbs 17:7) not a friend loves when it’s convenient. So how do we
reflect God’s faithfulness in the uncertainty of transitions?
If you’re the friend who is instigating a new transition, be aware that your
loss is eased by the excitement of a new adventure. Those you leave behind may
feel the initial loss more sharply than you do. Conversely, the person who is
jumping into a new season has a lot of adjusting to do in finding his place in
his new world, and new responsibilities can be exhausting. Assure your friends
of their value, and be patient with one another as you find your new normal.
Believe the Best
Sometimes I struggle in the “keeping in touch” arena. At times life has been
particularly frenzied; at others I’ve failed to be intentional with those who
are miles and miles away. During those full times, my friend Lesley lives out 1
Corinthians 13 love for me when she says, “I trust your heart toward me.” She
chooses to believe the best in me, even when the schedules and time zones keep
us from connecting as often as we’d like. This trust builds even more trust,
and I can rest assured that she isn’t assuming the worst of me when I fall off
Have Healthy Expectations
With the advent of Skype, Facebook and unlimited text plans, it is easier
than ever to stay in touch, but sometimes the convenience of modern
communication tricks us into thinking that keeping in touch will be easy. We
can’t predict how things will change, but we can expect that they will change
somehow. Make peace with the fact; be flexible and choose to become an advocate
for God’s call in one another’s lives no matter where it sends you.
Remember Change Doesn’t Mean the End
I’m incredibly sentimental. In my mind, every transition is the end of an
era, and I weep nostalgically. Dramatic as I am, things have never been as
final as I expected them to be. There are pockets of sweet friendship that find
their way to us even after a husband and a tribe of children enter the picture,
or continents separate us. Distance is not the enemy of friendship. Things
change, but in embracing that change I find that things are better — richer,
Transitions are indeed clumsy. We’re likely to hit a few bumps in the road,
and not all friendships survive them, but we aren’t meant to collect friends
like stamps. Our friendships are a gift of grace. We can only endeavor to be
faithful and gracious with what God has given us: relationships, as well as
stations in life. If we endeavor to reflect His character where we are, we can
trust Him with the rest.