For My Friends (and friends yet-to-be)

 

copyright Jenni Cannariato 2015
 
Aren’t friendships funny things? 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the tide of friendships, the coming and going of them, over the last year. Thom and I have reached the point in our adulthood where lifestyle-choices, faith-based choices, family choices – all choices – are adding and subtracting close friends, left and right. We’ve weathered the first wave of deaths, babies, divorces, big moral decisions, and faith changes.

And we are far enough out of college that those life-long friends we’d thought we’d have forever are the ones we haven’t heard from since graduation day. And some we’ve seen a couple of times. And some we talk to and pray for regularly. 

And we’ve just made a move across the country and set on end all those friendships we had on Long Island. And here the question sits: whom will we keep? And who will drift away?

My friend Cara, I’m going to start calling her my unexpected friend. Her friendship was unexpected when I transferred from my home-base campus in Fort Wayne to the foreign corn fields of Upland. The couple of times we’ve spoken since college have been unexpected. And then, most unexpectedly of all, she’s planning on moving to Portland the same summer that I moved to the area.

So we met and hugged my husband at Apple and then we sat in Nordstrom cafe and looked for bacon and avocado on the menu and drank ice-cold water and had a lovely, long talk about the five years since graduation, and the two years since we last spoke. 

Unexpected.

 At the end of the evening and the hugs, I walked to my car under a cotton-candy pink sky and had one of those God-your-humor-is-fantastic moments.

  I mean, seriously, go figure.

 

courtesy of QH Photography
 
 And then there’s those friendships that you instantly feel a connection, from across the room, and know you have to be friends with that person. Or the friendships that weren’t deep but then suddenly are. Or the friendships that stretch across a lifetime, but come in spurts and bumps and unusually long emails and wedding visits. 

There’s the high school friends, the college friends, and the friends that I only had for a very small window of time, and we never talked again, but they still meant so much to me. 

Life’s strange on this earth with people moving around, and friendships blooming and dying every day. 

Really. How do you figure out who to hold on to and who to let go? Who do you keep calling, and keep texting, and keep emailing? Who do you make space to go visit, or invite to visit you? Who do you choose to be your best friend? And who stays at the acquaintance level? Whom do you keep setting up coffee dates with, and whom do you say “no” to? I mean, I’ve known hundreds of people in my life. And it could be a two-job scenario just to keep up with everyone. And family. And my husband. 

Here’s what I’m thinking: we don’t decide. We just live, and stay present, and trust. Trust, trust, trust. Because friendships are, by nature, mysterious and unexpected and humorous. And who can possibly know, upon that first “nice to meet you,” who will be the friend we call in all the big moments of life, or who will be the person we smile and nod to at the grocery store? 

Isn’t that part of the fun and the fear of building new friendships? 

So here’s my resolve: to stay present. To pour into the people who are close to me, those ones that keep inviting, keep calling, keep texting, keep loving. To commit to sending a text, or an email, or a phone call, or a prayer when a name pops into my head or dreams. To hold my friends with open, upward hands – totally surrendered to the plan God has for our lives. To love them dearly, to hug them close, and to hold them loosely. To understand that each moment is precious and measured and counted. To laugh and cook dinner and keep my home open and stay up a little late. To reach out, to ask for help, to be humble and vulnerable. To respond to texts and emails and phone calls with genuine anticipation and excitement. To say “yes” to requests for coffee and walks and Pilates. 

Because, honestly, we don’t know where our next dearest friend will come from. We don’t know when someone will slip out of our lives. It’s the pain and beauty of living in this overlap between the kingdom of heaven and a broken world. We get to love people, but we have to lose them sometimes, too. After all, “To love is to be vulnerable,” as Madeleine L’Engle said. 

And because, this is the thing: It’s worth all the pain. And the loss. To love people is, after loving God, the most beautiful and wonderful and worthy thing we get to do on this earth. And although we don’t get to decide (let’s be honest) who or when or for how long, we do get to decide how much of ourselves to give, and how deeply to love. 

So here’s to loving deeply and well and often, to being surrendered to the whispers of God suggesting just who needs our presence, and to the adventure of unexpected friendship.

to my very best, lifelong friend

So tell me, how do you prioritize and commit to friendship? Over life changes, distance, etc? When do you know to pursue versus let go? 

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God’s Not Done

  
The fact that this blog post is going live past July fourth is the perfect example of why I could never be a journalist. I’m a ruminator – I like to chew on and think about things, leaving me very little to say at the time of the current event. So, pardon my late-to-the-field commentary. 

And, I’m not one to write about current events in general. I don’t really think that debating over politics is the most effective way to “bring others over,” at least not through a blog. And I hesitate to write this because I don’t really desire to engage in the debate, or to place myself square in the way of trolling comments. But occasionally I stumble over a soap-box I can’t help but stepping on for a while.

 As you all know (because I’m definitely in post-current status), the Supreme Court recently legalized gay marriage. My Facebook feed was evenly split between rainbowed profile pictures and passionate articles about the dire fate of our country. It was a little exhausting. And heart-breaking. And hard to process.

 I believe that the biblical definition of marriage is pretty black and white, and I think it’s devastating that our country does not define marriage along those lines anymore. But that day, on Facebook, the statements that bothered me the most were not the celebration of “equality” by those in favor of gay marriage. The statements that irked me the most were those made by Christians, about God’s abandonment of our country. “God moved his business overseas,” “God is done with our country,” etc., etc.

 These statements are heartbreaking to me. For many reasons.

 I’ve been thinking about God, talking to Abraham about the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We all know this story. Abraham asks, “But, God, what if there are fifty righteous? Forty? Thirty? Twenty? Ten?” And God says, “If I find ten righteous, I will not destroy those cities.”

 Then I think of the promises to the Remnant – those faithful Israelites, those kept to and by God – the promises of nurture, and green pastures, and beauty instead of ashes that weave their way through the major and minor prophets in the last half of the Old Testament.

 And I think of Jesus. Jesus, who by all expectations, should have come sweeping in, Romans falling left and right. Jesus, who should have eradicated a government that was perhaps one of the most perverted, immoral, unjust, and corrupt governments in all of history. Jesus, who instead submitted to the corporal punishment of a cowardly leader, an irate crowd, and an unjust conclusion. Jesus, who told his disciples to pay their overly-exorbitant taxes. And Jesus, who seemed more concerned with hugging children and feeding the hungry and washing disciples’ feet than debating politics in the public square.

 And, then, after the Supreme Court decision came the fourth of July and another stream of comments on our miserable, awful, God-forsaken country.

 

And now I’m mad.

  

   
I live in America. My husband lives in America. My mother, my father, my husbands’ parents? Live in America. I know pastors, friends, cousins, writers, artists, speakers who live in America.

 

Duh, Jenni.

 

Here’s the deal: God’s business is not done here, because his business? It’s with the righteous, with his Remnant, with his people. And there are hundreds, thousands, of us here, like those I listed above.

 And how dare we. How dare we package the Lord of Heaven’s Armies into a tiny box and ship him overseas and render him impotent. How dare we tell him his time is up here.

 How dare we corrupt the Gospel story, the story of God squeezing himself into flesh for the sake of the soul of the homosexual, the prostitute, the adulterer, the liberal, the liar, the luster. How dare we shrink that story down to political decisions, calling it ineffective and over.

 

The Kingdom of Heaven is an upside-down kingdom, and as far as I can tell, lasting change and God’s business don’t happen on the micro levels of governments but on the macro levels of personal, soul-changing Love.

 

And our job? Is bringing the kingdom of Heaven to the hearts of our neighbors.

 

So, can we make a deal? Let’s repent of our hopeless, apathetic approach to the Gospel, get on our knees, and start praying for revival. Let’s humble the scoffing parts of our hearts that say our country is too far gone, and ask God to make the Gospel powerful in this land once again. Let’s ask for courage to continously hope in the power of the Gospel to change lives.

 Because our business is this: to keep hoping and believing and glorifying this Gospel until God takes us home. And though God is powerful enough to bring nations down, and to make them rise again, that’s not our business. We are never once commanded to worry about that. So let’s not stop hoping that the Gospel can work mightily in those around us.

 

I guarantee you, our neighbors, even our enemies, will be more compelled toward Jesus and his righteousness through hopeful expectancy in the Gospel than by apathetic, cynical damning of our country.

 

God’s not moved overseas. He’s not done here. He’s with me, delighting over me, mighty to save, ready to the finish the work, not wanting to lose a single soul. And he’s with you. And here’s my declaration: I will not stop hoping and asking to taste his goodness in the land of the living, in this land, in my country.