This is really what we want isn’t it? We want things to last forever. We make marriage vows that include the words, “until death” and “forever”. We never make new friends with the immediate thought, “Well, when THIS friendship is over, here’s what will happen.”
We seem to be designed for long-haul relationships.
We usually imagine life in perpetuity with the people we love. It’s especially true with the people is seems God has placed in our lives. We might think about a life without them (maybe even long for it) on the dark days when conflict inevitably arises. But that’s not our natural state. We seem to be designed for long-haul relationships.
Marriages are an example, and are in the front of my mind because of our current sermon series. But it’s more than that. It’s our friendships. Our mentors, teachers and comrades. The people we’ve done some serious life with.
Of course, this doesn’t always work out. People move away. People die. People get hurt or angry and withdraw. Or how about this one: you kind of “forget” about each other – then when you do remember, it feels super awkward to reach out for fear the other person is offended because you haven’t called or texted in months. So, you put it off longer and the fear of the awkward grows to movie-monster size until…at a moment you can’t really point to, for no particular reason…the relationship is gone.
Fear of the awkward grows to movie-monster size.
Of the many blessings I can count, one of the sweetest is the handful of relationships that defy this trend. I’ve got an old band-mate, for example, whom I’ve known for 40 years. We don’t live too far from each other, but life regularly puts us in a kind of radio silence, sometimes for years. Yet, all it takes is a text, an email or a joyous lunch “re-union” to step right back into that long-haul friendship.
The group you see below is 4/5’s of the first small group Brenda and I were part of back in 1993. I wasn’t even really a follower of Christ when the group first met. The person taking the picture (the adult child of one of the couples) wasn’t even born! Career and family obligations carried some group members out of town, and very long gaps in communication occurred. But something still bound us: Koinonia.
Koinonia is the Greek New Testament word often translated “fellowship”. It denotes a togetherness born of mutually contributing to a common goal of purpose – even the purpose of being together itself. It’s one of two core values at the center of AC3 E-Groups (the other being connecting with God) and it’s the kind of thing I long for each of you to experience in the ways I have been blessed to experience.
Koinonia comes at a cost.
While all of us seem to long for Koinonia, the truth is we rarely experience it because the cost feels too high. It goes way beyond feeling awkward when we’ve been out of touch. It goes beyond the work of resolving conflict, truth-telling and forgiveness (all of which are vital and costly.) There is a more existential cost that’s hard to articulate. A cost incurred by standing with someone through change. Heidi Priebe put it better than I can: “To love someone long-term is to attend a thousand funerals of the people they used to be.”
Will you come to my funeral…again?
That’s the question we’re asking when we tentatively open ourselves up, one more time, to the possibility of friendship. That’s the question I choose to answer with a hearty (if shaky) “YES!” when I think about the guys in my E-Group, the friends and colleagues I’ve collected over the years…even that first handful of Christ followers who helped show me the way to the Master…so many years ago.