Posts Tagged ‘friends’

The Special

Posted: May 20, 2013 in church, life
Tags: , , , ,

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Tonight I got to go to the birthday party of a ninety year old woman who is a part of my church family, who is the grandma of my close friend and who I consider a friend myself. I could try to wax eloquently here or say something profound, but reality is it was just kind of special to be included in the family and to have a chance to wish her a happy birthday. Birthday parties for ninety year old friends don’t come often.
The day in some other respects was a nuanced exercise in futility.
That birthday party though, that was something special.

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I guess making an allusion like this may show my age a bit, but old men like me are allowed to wax poetic about the good old days once in a while; after all I did turn 28 today.  Don’t you all wish that you had a place like Cheers to go to?  Even if you’re not a drinker, I think the idea that there’s a place where you could go “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.  You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same.  You wanna be where everybody knows Your name.”  It was this wonderful place where people from different walks of life all came together laughing and crying while sharing their lives with eachother.  I think we all have a desire for this kind of community – something beyond ourselves – but finding it is a totally different matter.  I think ideally the church is supposed to be this for people, but I don’t think it often is or at least it hasn’t been in my experience.

A couple decades back I think churches started to realize this too.  Once you get a couple hundred people together at a time you might have a shared activity but it’s not a substitute for shared lives.  With that many people it’s nearly impossible to make many meaningful connections as people generally keep within their own social circles in large groups; it’s a sociological thing.  So the care group/cell group movement started and it worked out well for some people.  Having a small group of a dozen other people to meet, pray, share, and study with gave them the kind of connection and community they were looking for.  What about those of us who care groups don’t work for though?  They’re great for some people, but any time I’ve tried to just make myself fit into a group like that it feels very forced and contrived.  They aren’t people that I know or maybe even have anything in common with but I am instantly expected to be share my deepest thoughts and feelings with them in a bi-weekly meeting.  It’s even more awkward as a pastor because everyone else instantly wants to defer to you and rarely shares difficult around you lest the pastor know they aren’t perfect.  I know I’m not alone in this feeling, as a lot of people – guys especially – don’t look forward to coming to these get togethers even though they need some kind of community to be a part of.

I’ve had that kind of community before when I was in college.  I lived in a dorm with 36 other guys for four years and loved pretty much every moment of it.  It was great to have friends within shouting distance at all times; people you knew honestly cared about you as you did them.  I was never close friends with more than a dozen of them but in a tough time you knew that every guy in that dorm would be there for you.  This isn’t just me being nostalgic again as I have a habit of doing.  This is me coming to the realization that I need a community of real people to be a part of but not knowing where to find it.  People in the church I’m at look at me and treat me differently because I’m a pastor so that doesn’t work very well.  I can’t go to the bars to try to find my own “Cheers” because it would likely leave me without a job as churches frown upon pastors that hang out in bars (I what Jesus thinks of that . . . but that’s another post altogether).  So I’m stuck in the hard place of knowing my need and not knowing anywhere to find a solution.  Facebook, phone calls, blogs, and online gaming are great, but they are no substitute for real face to face community.  So I guess until I find it or someone finds it for me, I’ll just keep trying to help other people find it themselves.

awkward.jpgI’m an introvert and I make no appologies for that.  I find dealing with other people tiring and my true solace comes in time alone or with a small number of close friends or family.  I enjoy quiet and relaxed environments with music, not large groups or parties.  This has it’s positives and negatives.  It means that I don’t at all mind the office part of my profession – I like sitting quietly reading, studying, writing, and listening to music – but it also means that the whole “visiting people” thing does not come naturally to me.  Meeting new people for me is generally an exhausting ordeal.  It does not come naturally, nor comfortably.  I may not be diagnosed with any social disorder – although JPod has made me believe I may actually be a high functioning autistic – but I am somewhat socially awkward.  I find it quite difficult to make friends with new people because I do not like small talk and I don’t really know what to do otherwise.  It’s something that I’ve tried to work at but the general awkwardness and discomfort of the situations drives me away unless I absolutely force myself into them.

To those of you who are already close friends of mine, you might find some of this hard to believe because when I’m with friends and people I’m comfortable with I’m actually a fairly social animal.  I like to talk, discuss, tell stories and bad jokes.  I sometimes feel a little like I have two natures in one person, but not in a sacreligious way.  I am socially awkward and find it difficult to make friends when I’m placed in new situations or places, but when I’m with those I know I am a very socially comfortable being.  The real difficulty comes in that a good chunk of my profession has to do with being social with people I don’t really know well at all.  The other part of the difficulty comes in that I am in a new place with new people and have been for almost two years now and I have yet to figure out how to make friends.  I have many good friends in many places, but none within 2-3 of where I am now and will likely be for the forseeable future.

So tonight, I’m mining the depths of my own social inadequacies and I’m not coming up with many solutions.  I’m hoping that maybe you, my current friends who know me and aren’t as socially handicapped as I, can help me figure out how to funciton in my newish environment.  Obviously I have made friends before – or you wouldn’t be reading this – but I’m not sure how I lucked into those relationships.  Any suggestions friends?  What things have I done in the past to deserve you as friends that I have somehow not realized how to replicate?  I’m not alone, I have my wife here who’s my best friend and thankfully far more socially adept than I, but it would be nice to be able to move beyond that too.  So to my current friends, know that you are loved and missed and I’m not trying to replace you nor could I replace you, but if you could give me a clue as to how I should proceed down this road of life I’d appreciate it.  If you think this sounds vaguely familiar, it probably does because it’s not the first time I’ve written about this, it just so happens my own social inadequacies confronted me again tonight.  Don’t worry, I’m not depressed or self loathing, I’m just taking an honest look at myself and wondering if there’s something I need to change.

eyore.jpgWell after about four days apart, I finally got to go visit my wife for about 24 hours.  And before your mind goes on all kinds of rabit trails, no it’s not because either of us are incarcirated, it’s because she is living with my parents in Regina now until the baby comes as I explained a little while ago.  So since I’ve got home I’ve been in this kind of tired/sentimental/nostalgic mood that hits me sometimes.  I’m sure there’s a lot of good reasons for it coming: tired from preaching yesterday, tired from travelling, baby on the way and life changing, missing my wife which leads to me thinking about and missing all kinds of people, and many other psychological phenomena that I have no business analyzing.  None the less this is where I find myself: looking through picture albums from college, wondering where people are now, being in wonder of where some people managed to be now, listening to the travel mix from the boys Banff 2002 trip, plugging in the “rainshower” air effects air freshener from my dorm room, and sipping my peach beverage as I type.  I even had Stagg chili in a can for supper.

I realize that change is a part of life and you can’t live in the past, but there are definitely still times like this where I look back with pretty rose colored glasses and wish that for even a day or two that I could relive that college life with all my old friends, in my dorm room with every one of my worldly posessions within arms reach, and without all the responsibilities that this pastoral life I’ve chosen brings my way.  Sure there were papers to write, books to read, and RC/RA responsibilities to handle but really, those are easy to gloss over.  Somedays I really tire of expectations.  Somedays I really wish that I just lived an average life with few to no expectations on my from the outside world just being me and living life from day to day without responsibilities.  I know that it’s crazy and impossible, but I still dream about it from time to time.  Like I’ve said before, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the life that I God has blessed me with here and I enjoy ministry, but somedays I think it would be nice to take time off from being pastor Ben and be able to just be Ben the college guy again with my video games, my music, my friends, and my best girl by my side, I’d sing, sing, sing . . . okay sorry I got it confused with the Monty Python Lumberjack song in my ramblings but you get my point.  I miss having friends around, I miss the freedom to just do as I please for the most part, I miss having friends to just do as I please for the most part with, I miss SWONE.

Like I said, there are likely a lot of things precipitating this mood, but it exists none the less.  So I will continue listening to old music, looking at old pictures, smelling old air fresheners, and sipping my peach beverage until it passes.  Ironically, the “We Will Be Young Forever” song from Dance Dance Revolution just came up on the playlist.  So many hours wasted pushing those buttons.  I wish I had those hours to waste all over again.  I’d do exactly the same thing.

nancygraceho.jpgI’ll level with you right off the top, I don’t know where this is going.  Usually I’m sleepy by this time – around 12:30am – but tonight I’m not, so I’m wiriting in the hopes of getting closer to sleep.  I spent a little time parousing through and reading all the blogs on my list, in particular Brad’s post that sounded strangely similar to one I wrote myself a few weeks ago about some of the challenges facing young pastors these days.  Tonight I don’t feel like complaining though.  This has been a good week at the church.  Although some may not believe me, I really enjoyed our elder’s meeting this week and it gave me some hope that an answer to my questions may be within reach and not just a pipe dream.  I again was given the affirmation that they are on the same page as I am and would support me pretty much no matter what crazy idea I thought would be the right one.  It’s exciting and daunting at the same time.  Exciting in that I’m getting in on the ground floor of something that I think could be spectacular, and daunting in the sense that it’s the ground floor and there is no particular momentum in any direction (ie. it’s totally up to me to set the direction and create the momentum).  I’m still not sure exactly what direction things will head in yet, but I’m starting to get a little bit of a vision of what it could be.  If you want to guess what that is I guess I could set up some kind of web-based competition to “name that ministry” once it starts up. 😉

Anyways, I’m starting to get a little closer to groggy now – I’ve been watching Nancy Grace do a story about O.J. Simpson’s new trial and that’s enough to make anyone pass out – so I think I’m going to try to get some sleep now.  In hindsight, I guess this post actually went somewhere after all . . . go figure.