Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Community in Installments / An Invisible Net

I wrote a while back about the subtle disappointment I feel not to have a best friend or soul mate – and a disappointment in the patterns, circumstances, and choices of my life that mean I do not generally play those roles in anyone else’s life either. I may never be a wife or mom – who knows? But I like to think it would be good to be an aunt, a godmother, a mentor, a more important person in the lives of other than I typically am.

Now I think I’m starting to let go of that disappointment and accept that it’s OK to find community in installments. It may not be ideal. But the roles we play in each other’s lives can be satisfying without the level of commitment and permanence I may have been assuming was necessary. And community can still be sustaining and life-giving when it’s more relay race than marathon.

I was talking about this with my small group at church a while back. More or less the same group of us have been getting together twice a month for several years now. One of the couples has struggled, as I do, with the ways the group and the church as a whole fall short of intimacy. We’ve all experienced enough magic moments of closeness somewhere else, at some other time or with some other group, to know it’s possible. We’ve seen people lay down their lives for us; we’ve known people who have immeasurably enriched our lives.

But close friends move away, and life-long deep friendships are relatively rare, aren’t they?

Maybe we should not place those kinds of expectations on one another or ourselves. Instead, we can rejoice in the magic moments and let ourselves and others off the hook. Let’s try to act on the inner promptings that would move us to love and serve one another, but recognize that human beings are by nature flaky, not so faithful. We should recognize that each of us is part of an invisible net for others, and each of us has an invisible net as well. We want to do the right thing; sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. It’s OK. Most of the time =someone= will be there to offer the hug or encouraging word, send the card, help with the practical need.

Community in installments can work. And relationships are more about sticktoitiveness than magic.

A friend of mine just experienced a huge betrayal by someone very close to her. I feel like a second-string friend to her and am pretty sure I cannot do much to fill the gap that has been left. Yet I can do something. I can stick with her.

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