Adult Friendship – Finding, Keeping, Letting Go

Adult Friendship – Finding, Keeping, Letting Go

Every Sunday night I go to a church in a bar filled with people with stories, all kinds of stories. Stories we believe are “the word of God for the people of God,” because God is still speaking in and through our lives. This month we’ve been talking about adult friendships – finding them, keeping them, losing them, and starting all over again. In a world full of lonely people, we don’t talk about friendship enough, or even make room for it in all the things competing for our attention and priorities. And as adults? We often are at a loss when it comes to making the kinds of friendships we want. (The Nancy podcast has done some great stuff recently on how queers can find a “gaggle” of friends, but I think we all need that help.)

This is the story I had the opportunity to tell this week. It’s one that’s still going…

——

It was Easter Sunday 2014. We’d had the sunrise vigil, and the Easter breakfast, and I’d just finished leading the liturgy I wrote for our Easter service. I was walking with my friend Angela to our cars in the parking lot, and I remember telling her, “I think maybe this should be my last service. Everything is good, but if I want my life to be different – and I do – nothing’s very likely to change if I don’t change something.”

I was 41 and tired of being tired of being single. I hadn’t had a date in seven years, and I wasn’t meeting possibilities. Something needed to change and church seemed like the most doable thing.

And that was scary to say, because church meant more than the place I went on Sundays. Church meant six years of friendships, of lives lived together with a group of families and a few singles who lived in my neighborhood. We had dinner together every week. I’d known most of their kids since they were born. When I was sick, they brought me extra plates of dinner and DVDs. When there was a birthday, we threw a party. Some of their children were the only kids I’ve ever felt move and kick and squirm in their mama’s belly.

I spent the years after seminary building my life around these relationships, and now I was going to change that, and I didn’t know what would happen. What all that would mean.

So I started visiting churches.

At the first one, I met a pastor – another single woman – who came from a conservative background not too different from mine. We had lunch and met for coffee and started sharing our stories (she didn’t tell me then about her dream of starting a church where people could share good food and tell true stories and make beautiful worship together!).

At the second one, when I told a work acquaintance and his wife why I was trying to make changes in my life, Judy – a woman who is five feet (maybe) of major general, cheerleader, and CEO all rolled up together – gave me marching orders: “I’m proud of you! And I want you to go home and sign up with a dating site online! You need to go where the men are, and that’s where they are! And I mean today! Report back to me with a text this evening.” And like I imagine everyone in her life, I obeyed. (And had ten first dates in the next three weeks!)

At the third church, I found a community of gay couples who also knew what it meant to be a deep disappointment to a conservative family, as well as how to be a chosen family who could keep me afloat through that storm. I ended up landing in that church, and they gave me the support I needed as I started dating, then moved into the city, changed jobs, and even as I got involved in the queer, quirky new church in a bar my pastor friend was starting.

And when my last birthday came around, I looked across the table at the improv club where we were laughing and celebrating. There was my first friend from my new job, a beautiful friend from that new church, and two of my closest friends in the city – both of them men I met dating. And one of them came with his girlfriend of the past year, who I’d enjoyed hanging out with on many other occasions.

Those friends from my old neighborhood in the suburbs? They weren’t in the city celebrating with me that night, but they cheered me on through it all. I still go up north for the breakfast we all have together one Saturday a month. And I’m still a part of their kids’ lives. And this summer, they all loaded their kids up one Saturday morning (no small feat!) and hauled them into the city to have breakfast at my place.

One of the hardest thing I’ve had to do, the thing that never seems to get easier, is knowing how to keep friends in my life as a single person when life is changing for everybody. It turns out that sometimes that means letting go.

Advertisements

Unclobbering and Shared Stories 

Unclobbering and Shared Stories 

A friend of mine, Colby Martin, has written a book that’s about to be released. I’m proud of him, not just because of the enormous work such a project means, and not even because it’s a brave and beautiful book.

I’m proud of him most because of the life he has engaged and shaped in himself – it’s a brave and beautiful journey he has walked to be able to write this book.

Unclobber is part memoir and part exploration of the Bible’s “clobber” passages – those verses that convince believers that God condemns same sex desires and acts. When Colby came to understand those passages differently, he lost friends and the position as pastor he was called to in a conservative evangelical church.

It’s not the book about affirming my LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers that I would write, and I’m glad. While there is strong resonance between our journeys, Colby’s story is uniquely his and uniquely valuable for that.

For me, his story is most powerful in a place where it both deeply connects with and departs from my own.

Colby changed his mind and heart because of his deep commitment to be faithful to Scripture and following Jesus. He had no questions about his own sexuality, no friends or family members who were gay.

Like me, Colby didn’t come to see things differently because he had a stake in the game. I would say that we both began to look deeper because we saw that Jesus has a stake in the game.

It’s not an easy path. While there is, as Colby expresses so well, a deep peace that comes with living in alignment – mind, heart, spirit, and outward behavior all in harmony; that peace can come with deep loss.

I am fortunate that, unlike Colby, my own journey did not jeopardize my calling or the ability to support a family. But there are deep losses nonetheless. When what it looks like to be faithful changes for you, to those for whom it hasn’t changed, you appear to be unfaithful.

Following Jesus can take us down different paths, paths that can seem confusing (and worse) to those who love us. But once seen, the vision cannot be unseen. Once known, new understanding cannot be unknown.

I’m reminded of the parable Jesus told of the Pearl of Great Price. A merchant sells everything in order to gain one thing that matters most to him (a thing that would look absurdly impractical to the parable’s audience – he can’t eat it or shelter under it, and it would be difficult to sell, if he even intends that).

It’s a parable that challenges us to know what it is that we value most. That will not look the same for all of us, even those of us who follow Jesus, and that’s hard sometimes.

I’m grateful for Colby and his journey. I’m grateful for friends who have counted and paid the cost, and continue to follow as faithfully as they know how.

And as we share our stories, I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that we can continue to challenge our fears and blindspots, that we can embrace a faith that is ever more just and generous.

That together we can create a world that overflows with the shalom, beauty, and love of God to all.