Our church has taught me more about friendship than any of the six churches I’ve served. I am in distress over family, you bid me to go and take care of things. I take on a big challenge as your pastor, and you come up firmly underneath me. I am aware that without you, without your trust, without your caring, I am nothing.
Friendship is also probably the single greatest theme that is underdeveloped in the Bible. Oh, there are great stories about Saul’s son, Jonathon, and David, the eager young Turk who would inherit Saul’s crown. But precious little beyond that. Friendship is one of life’s most vital features, and one too often taken for granted.
While our desire for companions is boundless, research suggests we can handle only so many close relationships at one time. Social scientists have gauged our human social networks. Christmas card mailing lists average about 121. But an undergraduate thesis suggested Franklin Roosevelt had 22,500 acquaintances.
Then we have our inner circle, don’t we? It tends to be much smaller. The typical American trusts only 10 to 20 people, and the numbers are shrinking these days. From 1985 to 2004, the average number of close confidants we claim decreased from three to two. Not surprising in a society where we more attentively respond to cell phones than to each other’s faces. Christopher Delorenzo writes that is sad and consequential because people with deep rosters of close friends are the most long-lived and perhaps also leading the happiest lives. Friendships predict longevity more than blood pressure, triglycerides, pulse, and body-mass index.
How can we build friendships in a epoch when they seem to wither on the vine? As you appreciate friends, refusing to take them for granted, do so also with your humble acquaintances. Even less strong relationships are a meaningful influence upon our well-being. Beyond that, like anything worthwhile, any deeper friendship becomes mostly a matter of putting in the time. A study from the U. of Kansas claims it takes 50 hours to go from acquaintance to casual friend, another 40 hours to become a real friend, and a total of 200 hours to become a close friend. Are we willing to “invest” in one another as human beings is a practical question.
If we can’t find that much time, reviving dormant ties can be especially rewarding. Reconnected friends can quickly recapture much of the former trust we enjoyed. Longing to be close is pervasive among us; seeking real connection is universal. Do you ever wonder why so many stumble through life pining for companionship that could easily be provided by legions of other lonesome stumblers? But it doesn’t happen without our willingness to become vulnerable and self-disclose.
Neither does it happen if we don’t make it a priority to invest our time and energy. We know the spiritual law that we only get back in proportion to what we will give. Let’s say that out loud and be grateful for the FCC community of lovely friends.