Of course, though, with the beginning of one thing comes the end of something else, and the end leaves me pondering the bleak truth that we don't always leave an impression behind us. Sometimes we're just... forgotten.
This, in turn, has made me think long and ponderous thoughts about the nature of friendship and, in fact, most kinds of social interaction. I confess that, sometimes, it all seems like a bizarre dance and I don't know the right moves. At other times, this idea of interacting -- especially within the church where, idealistically, I tend to imagine that relational barriers won't exist -- feels sort of like a reverse emperor's new clothes: we spend all our time piling on more and more ridiculous layers, and none of us is bold enough -- or cares enough, possibly -- to be naked (and of course I mean this figuratively) before each other. There are some who are willing to get to that soul nakedness -- by which I mean being really real, really loving, and really telling the truth -- but there is no one who sees enough or notices enough or cares enough to respect and appreciate that vulnerability. How many of us have shared a deep need or a sincere heart's cry only to have it evaporate, unnoticed, in the air?
We laugh as we relish the seemingly bizarre societal conventions that so complicate the romance of Darcy and Elizabeth, but we're surrounded by just as many ourselves. They take a different form, of course, but they exist all the same. Just as in the days of Bingleys and Bennets, beauty opens relational doors where plainness does not. Similarly, those with charm and charisma may find pathways into friendships where quieter people do not. And one social trick that often trips me up is the sense that involvement seems to equal relationship, especially where church life is concerned -- but of course it doesn't. We feel connected to someone because we go to school with them, or we both teach the same Sunday school class, or we helped out with that thing that time, or she goes to the same writer's group as I do. We feel connected because we are in proximity. But when circumstances change and the proximity lessens, the relationship is proven for what it is. A true friendship survives all that, but others... don't. And it can hurt to be reminded that we are not as valued, loved, connected, or even as remembered as we'd hoped.
And all of this, in turn (I feel like Fiddler on the Roof's Tevye, with his multitude of 'other hands'), makes me realise how very very blessed I am by the handful of really true, really dear friends I do know. Interestingly, only one of them lives in the same neighbourhood as me. Many live outside Queensland and even outside Australia. Most of them I have known for many years, and some of them I'll only see once or twice a year, if that. Some are related to me. With others, I have nothing external in common. But all of them are people who don't require me to pile on the layers in order to be their friend. In fact with these precious people I don't need to be anything. I don't need to be loud or quiet, funny or serious, pretty or plain, dressed up or dressed down, happy or sad, ultra religious or worldly wise. And because of their unconditional love and their lack of relational requirements, I can actually just simply be the flawed person that I am, loving them and growing along the path that God has for me, as content to sit alongside them watching a movie as engaged in discussions about the real challenges of living faithfully.
Such a level of grace and commitment and get-along-with-ability is a rare thing; I'm learning this all the time. So here's to those precious ones whose kindness and love are beautiful, cheering, comfortable reminders of what great relationships are really like. Love to you!
* * * * *
Samantha R -- bravo, you! Relish your year of yes!
Rebecca Simon -- it was indeed. Are you home and settled again now?
Katie -- so true. Happy things mean life goes on.
Elisabeth -- really? You're one of my adventuring heroes whom I feel convinces says "yes" to everything! PS. I owe you an email. Coming soon.
Simplythis -- you little Brisbane local, you.
Nan -- thank you for dropping by. xx