Monday, February 4, 2013

Jen

I was with an old friend recently.  I'm not sure how old an old friend can be when we're only 32 but we've known each other for over a decade and since before both of us were married.  We're now both divorced.  

Jen and I have walked through a lot of life together, from opposite sides of the continent for most of that decade.  I wasn't able to be right there in California for her holding her when her marriage fell apart.  And she wasn't able to be here for me as I went through my pregnancies and lost some of my babies and gave birth to others.  But we knew that each other was still there.  

We were connected in a spiritual sense even if not in a physically present sense.  I knew, if there would be any way she could've been standing in those L&D rooms with me she would have been.  I never doubted or questioned our friendship.  She was sort of like an anchor for me, if I really needed her I knew I could call her.  We knew each other BEFORE and that meant something significant for both of us I think.


Once several years ago during a particularly awful patch of my marriage I went out to California alone and stayed with her for several days.  She had to work and biked back and forth so that I could have her car and explore.  That's the kind of friend she is.  I had a lot of solitude, something my soul thrives on during hard times.  I lost my wallet on the streets of Santa Barbara and some nice older people turned it in, cash still in it at the airport.  

We explored some sites together, went out to dinner.  I got to meet some of her 'other side of the country' friends and see the Pacific ocean again.  It was restorative.  And I remember thinking we expect so little from each other, that's part of why this works.  We can go months without talking, our houses can be a disaster when the other arrives.  We can eat stale triscuits or I can accidentally cook her beef, when I should remember she wasn't eating red meat.  And it's all good.  We're fine.  We enjoy each others company.  

She and I met in college while pursuing degrees in Christian Ministry.  We were Bible majors together.  Our friendship started while discussing deep theological questions.  Both of us have developed and changed our beliefs over the last thirteen years.  She has gone in a more Eastern direction and I am now an Open Theist.  I don't know that we vastly disagree with one another but it has been really encouraging to me that we've been able to discuss these changes in our belief systems without any judgement or criticism.  I respect her, I respect her process, I respect and understand her conclusions and how she's reached them.  Our love and solid friendship has given us a foundation where we're both non-threatened by one another's process. 

That is the mark of a deep, secure relationship.  Relationships like this give us the security we need to be genuinely ourselves.  Whether we agree on next to nothing, everything, or none of the important things.  I have some relationships with people that friends of mine do not understand.  

The relationships are with people who are vastly different than I am.  Some of them are different on one side of things, incredibly legalistic conservative right wing voting Christians and then I have relationships on the other side of things, super liberal atheistic homosexual non voting friends.  My more middle of the road friends shake their heads at me sometimes wondering how I walk the line in these relationships???  They don't necessarily judge me for being in relationship with my 'different' friends, they just wonder how I do it.  

But there is no line in these relationships for me.  I'm as free to express my beliefs as they are no matter how diverse we are.  We don't argue and debate all the time or sometimes at all.  We respect one another, we accept one another, we love one another.  The supporting line to walk in our friendship is that we believe our relationship has value apart from whether or not we agree with one another.  

My belief is that we are here on this earth to do one thing and that is to love.  It is our one charge. How can we be loving if we insulate ourselves from anyone who is different from us?  Of course we can love people that are just the same, who's priorities line up with ours, who attend or don't attend church for the same reasons we do.  It's those who choose to live on food stamps and still spend money on fake nails or an iPhone that we have trouble loving.  Or the rich businessman who skims the margin to further line his own pockets while okaying more child labor factories in a third world country. 

People are more than the summation of the decisions they make.  I think there is more to my friends then the belief systems they hold that are different than mine.  They are whole persons; whose presence in my life adds to my life experience.  They cause me to expand my horizons in ways that I might not have otherwise gone. 

My old friendship with Jen can be my anchor, a tie to my past that helps me to feel grounded.  But it's also a window through which I can see the rest of the world a bit differently.  Each of my friendships are like that.  I have a friend that teaches her children that swearing is ungodly and part of her belief system is not doing it.  She doesn't condemn me because I swear and I don't condemn her for teaching her children that way.  Because we both believe that the highest goal is love.  And we love each other and through the window of that friendship I get to see the world a bit differently.  That. Is. A. Gift.

Jen and Harvey

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