Slow Friendship


Last year, Dominion Power sent a crew through our neighborhood, switching out the old style meter boxes with a new digital model that, at the end of each month, shoots our monthly kilowatt usage to who knows where. Probably to an accountant in Wisconsin. So far as I know, I'm not co-dependent on the electric company, but as much money as I give them annually, there's something lacking when I don't have an actual person stop by my meter, checking in to see how my energy's doing.

I wish there were meters we could hot-wire to our souls, to tap in and see how our energy's doing. Miska regularly asks me (as I do her), "How is your heart?" Too often, it takes me too long to answer. This hesitation often signals that it's time to perk up, time to pay attention. We all need a person (or several) who will ask us these sorts of questions, people who actually want to wait and hear the answer. There is no substitute for a living, breathing friend whose mere presence in our life offers grace. Over years, these soul-friends see the ebb and flow. They notice the signals that trouble is brewing or sadness has knocked us a blow. They have the courage to tell us we're pushing the edge and need to taper down, and they have the history and the love to remind us, in the sketchiest places, that we've been here before and will be here again. 

Long-life friends give space to slow words and slow questions. They understand that knowing what to say is not nearly as vital as being willing to pause and be present. To let the moment be whatever it will be. To simply enjoy the conversation.

These friendships rarely happen quickly, and they must always endure relational swampland – that mucky stretch that stinks and provides little immediate joy, the muck you simply have to sludge through. Friendship that endures the years – and thrives amid the years – continually releases the demand for friendship to be efficient or to follow a straight line. Dominion Power replaced the meter because another could do the job with less hassle, less people, less cost. Obviously, they're aiming for profit, not friendship.

Other than Miska, I have a couple friends who do this for me, and I hope I do this for them. I'm horrid at staying connected via the phone, but the last week or two, I had to ring a couple of my pals. I simply needed to hear their good voice. I needed to be connected with that solid ground we share. I'm committed to them; and they to me. I don't know where the years will take us, what swamps we will traverse. But I'll walk it with these men.

If you don't have such a friend, I truly pray you find one. Until then, you could be this friend for another.

5 Replies to “Slow Friendship”

  1. I love the defining description as “people who actually want to wait and hear the answer.” Those friendships are worth every step through those stinky swamplands.

  2. In the process of exchanging some emails with my priest about friendship and the “love your neighbor” command and affection and obligation, I googled “slow friendship” to see if there was such a movement, and landed here. Browsed your most recent posts, too. I like the way you think and write. I hope to keep growing in my ability to be a friend and to be less fearful.

    1. Thank you, Marcy. If you want this, then I’m assured you’re well on your way. I like the thought of you and your priest have meandering email conversations on slow friendship. You’ve got a good priest.

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