It’s that time again. Time to say goodbye as people PCS (or you do) to new places. You trade email and Facebook info, you make sure you’re following everyone important on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest – maybe even Vine. In some ways it doesn’t even feel like you’re saying goodbye since you know you’ll get an update, like, status change, or message from people just as often as before. But what does God say about long distance friendships? Perhaps this wasn’t something you thought the Lord prioritized very highly. Actually, there is a lot said in Scripture about good friends and what needs to be done to find and keep them. Once you start looking it’s obvious that God cares a lot about the relationships in our lives and he provides a lot of guidance about how to be a good friend to others. So keep reading to find out more about what God thinks about friendship, and how to keep a good one going even across continents. (Also see: ‘Good Friends’ in the FRIENDSHIP topic).
We all have a stack of stories about friends that we kept in touch with, lost touch with, maybe didn’t even try to be in touch with, got back in touch with and on and on it goes. That’s because your life and the lives of those around you is mainly transitive. We are always starting over in new homes and schools and relationships. It’s impossible to keep in contact with every person you meet, but what does it look like to keep in touch with someone through texting, Tweeting, Myspace or Skype and maintain a healthy and God-honoring friendship?
Before we get into the how to, take a look at this story of a military teen girl who was trying to keep in touch with a long distance friend. As you read through it, think about your own stories and the different decisions you have made.
I have a friend in Asia, and I live in Germany. We video chatted once and at first it was *really* awkward but then we had fun and we practically chatted for every day. When we first talked (through Facebook mainly) it was so much fun. She followed me on Pinterest and Twitter too and was always making funny comments and getting excited with me over silly things. Then she turned 16, (a year older than me) and became a junior. She has a tough background with her parents and I've been helping her through it this past year or so, mostly just listening and trying to give advice. Now she's SO happy cuz her mom and dad worked a bunch of stuff out and everything turned alright for her.
Then, right when she turned happy, I got upset. Because right at that moment when she felt well enough to go out with her friends and all that, my best friend here on base moved away. And it wasn’t even the end of the school year! So every time I saw those pictures of my friend in Asia and her friends and they were happy, I knew that I wouldn’t feel like that for a long time. I’m really glad she’s my friend and we connect online but it’s so frustrating and feels kinda empty when we can’t actually hang out together. We can't go to the beach. We can't go to the movies. We can't do anything except chat. And sometimes I feel like the only time we chat is when she’s upset, but not when I’m upset and lonely. I hate to say it but it's almost like she's using me to get through her problems then spending the good times with her friends. (Which I know she isn't but I couldn't explain it any other way). And today I tried to explain to her how I felt...and I feel like that ruined everything. Now we're both depressed. She feels like everything is her fault and she’s an awful friend. I feel selfish and sorta over-sensitive. i feel like the only way out of this is to delete her, but there's a little voice in the back of my head telling me maybe if I hold on longer it'll change. I don't wanna let go. But I don't want to feel this way. Wouldn’t it just be easier to delete her and move on?
Maybe you have a similar story from your life and you know how tempting it is to cut ties and just walk away. It’s almost too easy to let things fade away. The truth is that good friends are hard to find and when you have one you should value them. Part of valuing your relationship means working hard, being committed and honest with each other. If you don’t confide in one another and offer support than you are seriously missing out on one of the greatest things in this life! Take a look at what God has to say about the importance and benefits of having a good friend.
Jesus, I get that we are supposed to always act in a way honoring to you; but, some of this seems kind of ridiculous. Does it really matter what statuses I “like” or what videos I post? I want to be faithful and follow you, so, would you mind showing me the benefits of watching what I say and working to keep friends over a long distance? You don’t have to, but it would just help so much if you let me see and know that obeying you in this is going to be worth the effort. Give me courage and self-control. Help me not get angry and speak without thinking. Amen.
Take a look at some of the history (etymology) of the word Communication
noun. About 1384 communicacioun an imparting or transmitting of something, in the Wycliffe Bible; borrowed from Old French communicacion, learned borrowing from Latin communicationem (nominative communicatio) from communicare make common to many, share, impart (com- together + a lost adjective *moinicos carrying an obligation, from munia, Old Latin moenia duties; see COMMON); for suffix see -ATION.
The specific sense of the imparting or transmitting of ideas, knowledge, information, etc., is first found in English in Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). – communicate verb. 1526, partake in common, share; either 1) a back formation from English communication, or 2) borrowed from Latin communicatus, past participle of communicare make common, share, impart; for suffix see – ATE.
Excerpted from the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology
BY W. S. MERWIN
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
Isn’t that a well-said thought? Just so you know, it is 19 words long and 107 characters (with spaces.) Words are important. When you are far apart from a friend, it’s the main factor in your relationship. You don’t have to use many, but the ones you choose matter. Each day this week, write 2-3 sentiments like this or thoughts about your far away friend, as practice for positive ways to communicate through internet and phone.
Luke 6:37-38 - This is an important guideline to keep in your mind at all times. Don't let the anonymity and physical distance of being online fool you into thinking that it's okay to be cruel and judgmental.
Proverbs 20:3 - As infuriating as some people and threads are online, take this advice! You are only responsible for you.
Psalm 55:12-23 - Here's a very emotive psalm, and if you've ever experienced the betrayal of a friend then you can certainly relate to this. This may also be a great reminder of what our words can do to others.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 - This is a famous chapter about love, and while many people read it at weddings it's not actually about romantic love. God calls us to love everyone, and this description tells us what that means.
Here’s a scene from Forrest Gump where we see an example of true friendship, more than that, we see someone who lives their life with love for all other human beings. Keep this attitude in mind as you work to keep friends over long distance or even just in your general online presence. Through this, he builds a sense of belonging:
This is a great clip from Dead Poet’s Society about the way conformity affects our life. We are called to live apart from the world and follow God’s guidance rather than go with the crowd. Stand out and be yourself!
You might laugh at the outdated tech in this movie; but, we get to see one of those moments when good friends reconnect and catch up. As you watch this scene from My Best Friend’s Wedding, think about the barriers in place when we don’t communicate face to face and what advantages and disadvantages that has.
Take a look at this poem submitted to everypoet.net. I always suggest reading poetry through more than once and considering the images and emotions the words call to your mind. As you consider the sentiment expressed, compare it to your own experiences of friendship and trying to ‘belong’ through communicating over long distances. After some time, even a day or two, write your own poem about what you have felt and experienced. Keep it somewhere close like your journal or bible and talk with God about what’s happened. He loves and adores you.
Every pic has a story
that only you and I know
You write a caption
people comment below
'Shoneli you look great'
writing what their eyes see
I wish I can express
but quietly I must agree
You people don't know
what lies deep inside
A beauty incomparable
to what you see outside
So I'll quietly look
at your pic and smile
Thank you God for the moment
it was unforgettably worthwhile
(c) 2010 by Gerard C. Johnson