Being a pastor in a small town makes it really hard to build and maintain friendships.
Well, maybe that should be rephrased… makes it really hard to build and maintain the kind of friendships where you get to actually spend face to face time with one another.
In college, I lived in a small intentional community of folks with shared perspectives. We had a ton of fun – but we also studied together, we ate together, we did stuff in the community with one another.
In seminary, I had an amazing group of friends, both men and woman again, who I was surrounded by daily. There were the folks I had coffee with at Brueggers, the women I had drinks and pizza with on Tuesdays, my ministry intern colleages, my roommates, Glenn and Maggie… life was full of people my own age who were all doing the same kinds of things together.
I move to this little town back in Iowa, and suddenly I feel like my husband and I are the only single people under thirty. I know that’s not absolutely true – but I just don’t see other folks. We don’t have children, so I don’t meet them through school events, and we don’t have the same interests as parents do. As a pastor, I don’t feel comfortable going and hanging out at the bars – and to be honest, that really isn’t our style anyways. It isn’t totally appropriate to be friends and hang out with parishoners, and those are the only other folks I really get to meet.
That’s not to say that we don’t have other friendships. We have a group of guy friends (and Pam) who we hang out with pretty regularly. But the closest one of them lives 45 minutes away. Those college friends are clustered in Des Moines – an hour and a half away – and then far flung across the nation. My high school friends – who I keep in pretty regular contact with – are all across the country as well…
December 16 – Friendship How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)
I was honored to officiate the wedding of two of those college friends this summer. And then I attended a conference in Des Moines in the fall and made a point to hang out with that same group of people. We got together for dinner. We hung out in the evenings. We laughed until our sides hurt. We told stories and caught up.
Being around those friends… watching them interact and seeing how their relationships have developed through this close knit interaction… was awesome. Every week they were together – often more frequently than that. They watched television together. They ate together. Their lives were intertwined.
When your nearest friend lives 45 minutes away… (yeah, Tree – I know you live closer on the weekends, but you have your own relationship to tend to!!) it is difficult to intertwine your life with someone. You can’t just show up on their doorstep. It takes gas money and energy and an extra hour and a half of driving just to hang out. You can’t walk home from Margarita Mondays when you have traveled that far 😉
I think watching them all interact and also being so welcomed back into that community, was a revelation for me. The switch from this life full of young people to this little town in Iowa was sudden… but I didn’t notice the changes because I was so busy adapting to a new vocation and making a home here. Being around all of them was like a burst of fresh air. We were adults, full of life, enjoying the company of good friends and the simple things in life (Captain Crunch Sushi, anyone?) I need those friends in my life again.