Seasonal Friendships

 I was mostly fine growing up with one or two good friends. I say mostly fine because no doubt I could have benefited from having more friends. When there was a friendship deficit in my life, I spent more time fishing and hunting, just me and my dog. That was before I grew up and moved off to college, leaving my dog, shotgun and fishing pole behind.

Fast forward a few decades later. I've been reminded of the value of friendship, particularly having a friend or two with whom I can have open, authentic conversations. Someone to whom I've given permission to speak into my life, even if what they say is hard to hear.

I currently have this level of friendship in my life, both with my wife and a couple of guys. I have to be intentional about opening up. It's not always easy, and sometimes I wait too long. I'm still learning. 

David and Jonathan were blessed with authentic friendship (1 Samuel 18:1-4). They embraced, shared their feelings for each other, and supported and defended one another. They opened up to each other. And they were real men. 

A good friend is both a gift and a tool for spiritual formation in our lives (Proverbs 27:6,17). But how do cross-cultural workers living with constant transition find and keep them? 

One way is to cultivate seasonal friendships. If you've lived in the transient expat community for any amount of time, you are well acquainted with goodbyes. You have them rehearsed. Then there's the new faces who move into the community. How do I find the capacity to reach out to one more person who might not even be interested in cultivating a friendship with me? Worse yet, what if we really hit it off? Yet another painful goodbye down the road.

For what it's worth, here's what I've learned after 20 years living overseas: seasonal friendships are God's provision. They keep us from the dangers of disengagement and isolation. They are a means to smart soul care which leads to emotional health and spiritual vitality.

Some of our friendships may be seasonal in terms of proximity, but they hold the potential to become enduring, lifelong relationships. In this sense, when we invest in a seasonal friendship we are investing for tomorrow. So go ahead and engage...again. If you're patient, the return on your investment may just surprise you! 

By the way, once in a while I go back to picking up my fishing pole or shotgun, with dog in tow. Maybe my next post will be about healthy ways to disengage!

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