Monday, December 10, 2012

Friendship - both gift and task

I keep returning to the motif of 'gift and task' (or, more accurately, as the Germans would: giftask) as a way to understand vocation and discipleship generally, and my own particular calling as a chaplain. 

But lately I've been putting a real effort into keeping in contact with my friends and realise that friendship, too, is both gift and task. Arguably, the friendships one develops are as formative as one's development of a sense of vocation, and contribute just as much to one's sense of identity. Electronic tools like Facebook, email and this blog (if any of my friends are reading – hello!) make this easier, but that ease also keeps friendship superficial and inhibits the cultivation of deeper ties. There is little, if any shared experience; it's much harder to have 'our thing' with 900 friends and in such a public forum. 

So, as I think I've mentioned before, I've been handwriting letters – the theme of a spate of recent books. I also threw an open party at a local pub (Facebook invites only, but anyone was free to attend or not without RSVP), set up a Skype date and am deliberately inviting more people to meet up or visit, and also just ensuring I make time for friends travelling from out of town. I've got to say, it's not been easy. It took me literally months to write the letter, weeks to get myself organised for the Skype chat (even then I was late), and days simply to write emails that are worthy responses to the ones I've received  But, of course, it's been worth it. Friendship takes effort: it is not an automatic entitlement, which is why it is so valuable. But more than that, friendship is a gift: it can only be given and not taken, and despite any effort put into the cultivation of a friendship, it cannot be earned. 

Because there is a certain gratuity – even graciousness – to friendship it is worth more rather than less, and I dare not waste it.