I am an unabashed fan of tv. I relish the evenings when my husband and I can veg in front of our big (medium?) screen, using our favorite shows as springboards for conversation about the events of the day, politics, or vacation plans.
That said, I don’t deal well with series finales. I get attached to characters and to the routine of checking in with them weekly. My chest tightens a little at the thought of only being able to visit them in syndication, a time warp where no new plot lines unfold. Last week’s Parks and Recreation swan song was about as good as a finale gets, though. It gave viewers a heartwarming glimpse into the futures of the characters. Each of the flash forwards reunited the Parks Department team and showed them supporting one another through successes, challenges, and milestones, even though many of them had moved on not just from city government but also from Pawnee.
Who wouldn’t want friends like that? Friends who fly in to share the big moments, who work to maintain a bond that was once a matter of proximity but now takes great effort, who love and deeply respect us in spite of – or sometimes because of – significant differences? In clergydom, however, such friends are hard to find if you don’t already have them from your pre-ministry years. And once you’re living the ever on-call life, it’s tough to tend the friendships you do have. (Believe me, I know.)
Soul friendships can’t be forced, of course. But I wonder if coaching can pose awareness-raising questions and offer accountability to people who are looking for life-giving relationships that don’t depend on a mutual love for all things clerical. What makes a true friend? Where might you meet someone who fits the bill? When will you go there? How will you initiate a relationship? How will you know if this is a friendship worth pursuing? How will you cultivate the bond?
It’s hard to step out and make a new friend. But ministry is too hard a road to travel alone.