Thursday, October 14, 2004

Beyond Geography

I've learned a few lessons this past summer, and I'm sure I'm still in process on a few lessons more. One of the things I've learned about relationships is that they take work. The old math class SAT definition of "work" is appropriate here: time and effort in function together. It's not just living a long time with no effort, and it' not just a little effort but then giving up too quickly. They multiply each other and enhance each other: duration alongside endeavor. I've come to the conclusion, no matter how you want to cut it, that it takes time and effort to build a relationship, or to build on relationships, or to enhance relationships past the point of being acquaintances to the place of being real & better friends. I'm not that smart, and I should've figured this out a long time ago.

There are people in your life that you'd call friends. Maybe they're at work, or at church, or at school. But of those friends, how many of them are friends because of geography, the incidental daily or weekly path-crossing that happens as if by chance? There are people in your class who'd be rivals if they lived in another school district. There are people in your shop who'd just be customers if they didn't punch the time clock with you. There are people at your church who'd never be on your speed-dial if there wasn't the weekly geographic intersection of your lives. And then there are family ties, which might even be a little tighter knit than geography. But you have family members you'd never want to be seen with in public; just remove the family DNA and you'd be with someone else for Thanksgiving dinner. We can take family for granted, and we can take the casual week-to-week geography for granted; I've taken these things for granted.

Think about your best friend at work, your best friend at school, your best friend at church, your family. Think about how many times you do something together outside of those various incidental connections. Think about how often you get together for coffee outside of work, or how often you hook up for movies on the weekend, or how often you might go on vacation together outside of the normal retreat or family reunion. I'm finding that "how often" often is not much and that when those things are removed from the equation, the connection was based on something less than real relationship. For me, that's turning my world upside down. Take away work, or church, or family, or school - and you reveal the depth of the relationship, the maturity and intimacy of the community. On the other hand, add extra time away from the office, away from math class, away from Sunday service. Add extra effort helping someone remodel their homes; studying together at the library; vacationing together at the beach.

Maybe this is why crisis is such a defining moment for us, for our relationships. In trial and in trouble and in stress, those things are removed to a certain extent. We can disconnect on these levels, or we can take an opportunity to connect on a new level, past the geography and the DNA. The relationship as revealed in these times is either not strong enough to take the stress, or it's ready, willing and able to move forward to a new level of intimacy and direction.


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