I have been in Indianapolis, IN for four days this week. I was at a young clergy conference that actually made me feel a bit old. At 35, I was one of the eldest in attendance, and I knew only two people upon arriving. Interesting experience. It was instructive to remember what it is like to be in a community in which I am not an insider who knows everyone.
I thought a lot about relationships, friendships, colleagues, etc. One of foundational assumptions of the group is that clergy need to establish healthful, supportive groups of folks beyond the local church. I'm told this makes a huge difference in the health and effectiveness of clergy.
I spent time agonizing over whether I have enough friends, and whether there is something wrong with me that my friends always seem to come in seasons. I don't maintain friendships that last from high school or college (despite my efforts in the past). I have one friend I try keep in contact with from Seminary. We have good years and bad years. After two years of gathering with a cohort of clergy in the Lewis Fellowship (which is why I was at this most recent conference- as a followup to that program) I don't know how many of these relationships will last for the long term either. We are all over the country.
I discovered that I was being rather closed to the experience of meeting folks at this conference because I doubt whether it's worth the effort.
Then, at closing worship, I realized something really important. I am not trusting God enough to provide for my relational needs. If I need friends beyond the local church in order to be effective in the local church, then surely God will (continue to) provide such relationships! This seems really obvious to write, but it was hugely empowering to recognize. So, hopefully, I can stop grieving my apparent inability to maintain friendships over years and distances, and start looking for how God is working in my life and friendships now.