For the release of “As Far As It Depends On You,” we set up some online conversations and I wanted to share a few things that were mentioned. You know how I get when someone says something that sticks with me for a while.
One of the ladies participating in one of the online studies found the book and the conversation through a Facebook post Sal shared. She has known Sal for longer than I have. They served together on a summer mission project, and she was actually present for the seagull attack of ’98. (If you know Sal, you know that reference.)
She really doesn’t know me at all, so I would say that about 80% of our time with our group was laughing at how honest she was about how I came across in my writing. While there were several things that she mentioned, one of the things she said was, “I read that whole ‘friendships last 5-7 years thing, and I thought ‘wow, that’s harsh.’”
As we talked through the idea that we struggle to allow friendships to naturally ebb and flow, we shared stories about hanging on to a friendship way too long, or how, at times, it was almost as if we had to create drama rather than acknowledge seasons had simply changed.
We talked about what a blessing the whole “pause” feature on facebook had been for so many friendships during election time. And I shared about the only time I unfriended someone and how that blew up in my face.
But Sal’s long lost friend had a great analogy. She said (my paraphrase), “I am trying to look at friendships more like songs. When there is a great song, something I just love or really just hits my mood in the moment I turn it up, I sing along, I play it louder. But, if the next song is just ‘meh,” I may turn it down or mute it for a moment. But I keep listening to music, I keep playing songs. I’m trying to learn to turn down or mute friendships rather than just turn them off, and as I’m thinking, there may be a friendship that I need to turn back up the volume on, maybe I need to try again.”
Now each one of us, through each one of our seasons of life, will approach friendships differently. I’m not saying how you should manage your song volume/friendships, but I am suggesting you at least pause to consider what songs are playing loudest. Anything need to be turned down a little? Anyone need to be turned back up? I think the greater majority of us have an all in or all out approach to tending to/maintaining friendships. I know that is typically how I navigate most things.
I have always appreciated the dynamics found among the characters and writers of the books and letters of the Bible. But have you ever noticed the ebb and flow of friendships within certain figures? My favorite might be Paul and Barnabas, leaders of the early Church. Barnabas is the guy that brings Paul before the Apostles (Acts 9), decent start to a friendship, but then:
“Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.” Acts 15
The volume is turned way down, seemingly off. But in another letter we read:
“This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?” 1 Corinthians 9
I AND Barnabas?…hmmm…then…
“James, Cephas, and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” Galatians 2
Turning up the volume?
The same guy, Paul, that departed ways after “such a sharp disagreement,” to later note his work alongside the person of the mentioned disagreement, wrote this:
”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Corinthians 5
Perhaps Paul was inspired by his own reconciliation to God as well as a reconciled friendship; a moment where he recognized there was a season for the song to play softly, and another time to turn the volume up.
Now, we can take a ton of liberties with the in-betweens of the story of Paul and Barnabas’ friendship. We can speculate the depth of the offense, the level of reconciliation, and the level to which their renewed partnership was actually deep friendship. However, I’m more curious about how you manage your disagreements. How do you handle the volume in your friendships?
The next to last segment in “As Far As It Depends on You,” is centered around figuring out how far you can and should go when it comes to the more intimate relationships in your life, your spouse and/or kids. This section of the book sparked some great commentary, and as it seems to happen for me so often, that week had been a rough parenting week so the encouragement and wisdom we shared in our conversation was a gift to me.
At one point in our chat we were sharing a few things we were trying to instill/teach our children, and Leslie shared this:
“I try to teach my kids, you will always have to work with people that you don’t like, you will always have to work with people that get on your nerves, you will always have to work with people that get on your nerves on purpose, and you will always have to work with people that don’t value you.”
So true, right? We have all encountered those people in a work environment. I would imagine all of us have our “that person” work version. And, hopefully we also have had some great people we work with. People that do value us, that do not get on our nerves, that do not get on our nerves on purpose.
But, given my current state the week of our conversation I couldn’t help be hear the value in this reminder across other areas of our lives. Maybe something like…
There will always be someone in your church that you don’t like, you will always have someone in your friend group that gets on your nerves, you will always have someone in your family that gets on your nerves on purpose…
There will always be someone in your home that, for a moment, you don’t like. You will always have someone in your house that gets on your nerves at some point. You will always have someone that you are raising, are married to, or parented that gets on your nerves on purpose. You will always have moments where someone in your home does not value you.
We were laughing because it’s true.
My teenagers get on my nerves on purpose. There are several times I have not felt valued. I don’t always like everyone in my home, and sometimes I feel like I don’t like anyone.
We didn’t laugh because it’s fun, or because it’s easy, or because we don’t have our own role to play in these dynamics. We are super aware that for some people we are that “someone.” We laughed because when you recognize this reality, and you stop being confused that people don’t think like you, act like you, manage emotions the same, respond the same, have all your same amazing capabilities and maturity (just a teensy bit of sarcasm in that last one)…when we take a deep breathe and see that this isn’t “new stuff” or something that is “only happening to us,” this is doing life with people that are just trying to also do their own life. And doing life can be tough, and we all aren’t equally equipped or trained.
There will always be “someone”…what kind of “someone” will you choose to be?
Another phrase I loved from our online conversations about “As Far As It Depends On You”
“If you don’t want someone to get your goat, don’t tell them where it’s tied.” – this one can stand alone.