But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart.. I’ll always be with you.”~Winnie the Pooh

DECEMBER 16 – FRIENDSHIP

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

(Author: Martha Mihalick)

 

I’ve had a lot of different friendships throughout the years. Some have lasted a lifetime (like Ben or Greg) some only a year or so (like A ) Most fall somewhere in between. We stay in each other’s lives peripherally for years and then one day the Holiday cards just don’t show up—one of you forgets and the next year you both do.

Sometimes you have friends right down the street or across town that because of the lives you have you don’t see often. You are in different places. Or maybe they don’t approve or you don’t approve and so things pulse and flex until later you do approve or they do or things change or get more the same.

I used to think every friendship had to be forever. Now I know that some are and those are  jewels in your life. Most aren’t. Most friendships have to do with a time in  your life and you serve a purpose in theirs as they do in yours—once that purpose is over, so is the friendship. That was hard for me to learn, I may not have in fact learned it. When you love someone, even if you are wildly angry with them, so angry you can’t in fact be friends any longer, you still did love them and probably still do.  The friendship might be broken but love doesn’t disappear.

So I have two friends…and their families that have changed my thinking on a significant subject.

A bit of background.

My mother was Catholic and left the church when you didn’t do that. She wanted to be a nun at one point I think. She got divorced when they still excommunicated you for that, though she’d quit going long before. Consequently I was raised sort of Episcopalian, sort of Unitarian and went to every single church with her to try them out. She was the Don Quixote of religion and I her Sancho Panza. I heard a lot of different viewpoints and I was a smart enough kid so I had a lot of questions.

And back then…where I lived (where I do now, but it has changed some) you just didn’t talk about being an atheist, or an agnostic or not having a church you went to every Sunday. And I did. Probably a lot.

And I tried to find Jesus at various camps and I met the kids who pretended to be your friend in front of the grownups and  help you find the lord -then when the adults weren’t looking told you how weird and ugly you were or laughed in your face when you tried to talk to them at school. The kids…and later the adults that were the ugliest to me 9 times out of 10—where Christians. Devout Christians, born again Christians. And this didn’t just happen a little, it happened a lot. I was a weird kid who couldn’t fit in even when I tried. I couldn’t play the social game well at all. So I had a target on my forehead and the ones who were the nastiest to me  were the ones who prayed the loudest. Even recently I’ve been told “I’ll pray for you,” in a voice of condescension and disgust (which really didn’t have anything to do with religion, it had to do with me needing to go to the doctor and this person feeling inconvenienced by it) which made me want to reply…please DON’T.

That said, in the last few years, two women that I happen to care a lot about are Christians. Their faith is important to them. They go to Church every Sunday. I’ll hazard they were both born again—though religion isn’t often something we discuss. Our kids like or in the case of Dr. F love each other. We like each other as families—we share many of the same values and like a lot of the same things (I can always count on L for my geek moment of the week or to enthuse over a bit of sci fi dorketry) They are caring and helpful and thoughtful and generous and…well everything the bible says you need to be. No they aren’t superhuman, but they are really good people with really great families. Neither one of them have EVER pushed their beliefs on me or the Bean or J. They don’t hide it, they just are. And because of them—because they strive to be what their religions tell them they should be instead of just giving it lip service–because they don’t go to church and leave the goodness at the door but carry it into the world–because they were the first to comfort and understand how horrible it was that a kid told the Bean she was going to hell…well I’ve had to completely revise my learned distrust, dislike of Christians. I’ve had to stop my immediate judgment. I’ve had to become willing to believe that not all Christians are like the ones on Fox news that pray like “hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.  Matthew 6.5  They don’t just talk the talk. And when they tell me I’m in their prayers, I say thank you…and mean it.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be a Christian per se. I know that I am much more willing to consider things and ideas I would have completely avoided in the past (for example—I really like Jay Bakker Jim and Tammy’s tattooed freak of a kid who discusses god in bars or in the back of candy stores with rockers, and hookers and drug addicts and punks and anyone who wants to come.

So these two women and their families, I guess you could say they unhardened my heart and when I felt an even greater anger with what happened to the Bean –I remembered them and worked not to judge and not to revert. With their kindness they managed to undo years of hurt from many many bad examples. They’ve made me able to see others like them instead of only seeing the Christians in name only.  They’ve changed me for the better.

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