Dearest Rachel –
Today’s sermon was about being friends with Jesus, using John the Baptist as an example. Interestingly, the main passage centered on the point when John was beginning to doubt as to whether Jesus was Who He said He was, even going so far as to send his own disciples to ask Him, “Are You the One… or should we look for another?”
To be sure, a spell in prison (and the likely possibility of execution) can do that to anyone: no one wants to believe that, at the potential end of their life, that they were following a lie all this time. And yet, after Jesus responds to the question, and sends John’s disciples on their way, He addresses the assembled crowd about John, and how they did not see in him “a reed shaken in the wind.” And the main focus of the sermon seemed to be about how not to be that reed, either.
Basically, in order to be a true friend of Jesus, one must not be swayed by popular opinion, or image, or the need for attention. But I have to confess, my mind was drawn to the opening images, as Pastor Scott described the type of friends people have (including Jesus, as he was a person, after all).
Basically, the hierarchy of friendship is a pyramidal structure, since those closer friends still presumably retain all the characteristics of the lower tiers. It’s not as if a capstone is going to float in midair, after all.
We start with acquaintances, which are not just those people who you meet along the way; these are folks that you take the trouble to at least remember their names, and vice versa. Of course, this means I find myself shoring up the edges of this platform constantly, as I keep losing track of names and faces from time to time. And yes, it is a platform; it’s a fairly broad layer of people – at least, for me. It’s probably thanks to belonging to such an extensive community as our church that there are so many upon which we try to build deeper friendships, but rarely have the time and energy (or even the desire) to cultivate too many of these acquaintances into something more.
Especially since casual friends tend to share common interests and activities, and so many of our acquaintances… really don’t, as a general rules. Our tastes were always so eclectic that it was difficult to find anyone who overlapped with a significant number of them. We might be able to find people with some shared concerns (in fact, I suppose one’s workmates could qualify in the best of times and circumstances), but finding friends that shared everything we enjoyed had to dismissed as all but impossible. It’s part of why I was keeping my eyes open at AnimeIowa, only to discover that, even if I could make such a connection, it couldn’t go any further than this level.
Because to get to the next stage requires a certain commonality in values; a state of being on the same page spiritually. I still remember one of the group of writers we hung out with in Iowa asking how the two of us managed to balance our faith and our fandom; he saw them as almost mutually exclusive (and considering that his wife wanted nothing to do with any of it, I could see why). Maybe it’s because we weren’t always applying ‘positive peer pressure’ on each other, but were rather ‘partners in crime’ occasionally. But at least we were still in alignment with each other on these things.
Still, we could have those hard conversations with each other when the situation warranted it. We were as close to each other as two people could be, even if we couldn’t necessarily read each other’s minds, like I’ve heard other married couples are supposedly able to do. We made it to the pinnacle, honey.
And then, the pillar that represented your friendship came crashing down.
And I’m left standing on the platform, looking up at the few remaining smaller plinths, wondering when they will follow suit. I never had many good friends, honey, and the few that remain were only brought into my orbit through you. The smaller towers that represent them stood through the force of their connection to you. Now that you’re gone, and the things that held them to me no longer does, I’m worried that they, too, will soon fall, leaving me amidst the ruins of what once passed for a pyramid.
Of course, I suppose the way to prevent the loss of friends (and to make more along the way), is to be more of a friend to others. A worthy goal, but one that might well be more of a challenge than it was for you. I’ll go into that in more detail later, but for now, there remains a question I need to ask myself:
Granted, it’s a good question for any of us, I suppose, but the truly tantalizing part is that it has no black-and-white, yes-or-no answer.
So wish me luck, honey. I’m going to need it.