Friday, April 12, 2013

Sabbatical musings 1: Aristotle and friendship

     I’m enjoying the rare privilege of travelling in Scotland with my two closest lifelong friends – as part of a sabbatical kindly granted me by my church.  I think if I have time I’ll jot down a few musings here and there – like this one.

     Randy recalled times I’ve spoken of Aristotle’s views on friendship – things like “The opposite of a friend is a flatterer,” or “Friends help each other to become wise.”  He asked if, over 40 years now, we have fulfilled this for one another.  Probably each one of us privately mused something like I did:  yes, in some measure, and for all I’ve received I’m immensely grateful; but yet how I wish I had served in this capacity in better, more intentional ways for the other two.

     I did share that what I value most about their love and resulting friendship is that they are maybe the only friends I have who don’t think of me as the senior pastor of a large church, as a published author, as a community activist, as a person of achievement.  They are interested in these things, because they are interested in me.  But they are unimpressed, even if appreciative.  They are the ones who love me quite apart from those accomplishments, and they are the ones who would love me if I lost it all, if I lost my job or were somehow discredited or jeopardized professionally.  I like that.  There’s an ease, a sense of belonging, no need to keep up appearances.  I think we call that “grace.”

     Interestingly, on the same long drive north toward the sacred isle of Iona, we discussed the contemporary issue of gay marriage.  Randy insisted that we need to define marriage.  We spoke of things like “two people committed to one another” – and without getting into what else we explored on that topic, we did reflect on the curious fact that, as lifelong friends, we are irrevocably committed to one another.  We never took vows.  We have never even brought up the subject to one another.  How lovely to realize the commitment was surely made, and was as enduring (or even more durable) than even a marriage – yet with no formality, no legal documentation, not even the simple act of saying to each other “Hey, we’re in this forever.”