Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
--Collect, Proper 20, p.234, Book of Common Prayer
Now, I have to tell you a little story before I go on with the original story. Blogger ate my original post last week. That's what I get for giving it the title "Non-Anxious!" Of course, I can't remember all of the original, so now you get the reworked version. I apologize I'm discussing the proper for the week, one week late. But here we go...
The photo above is of my latest visitor to my chiminea. I was sitting out by my fire and what should I notice but this little fellow. He was not in the least bit shy. He hopped around near my chair, as I was making a fire, and once the fire got going, he hopped back under the chiminea where there was about a 6 inch space that most certainly had to be warmer than the chilly night outside. He looked at me with half closed eyes, seeming to be for the most part, happy to share my company.
I had a bit of a conversation with him. ("Found any good bugs lately? Shouldn't you be scoping out a place to hibernate soon?") He was decidedly, quite non-anxious.
Now I realized I probably had not inherited a pet toad. More than likely, this little fellow was my companion for that evening only. I haven't seen him since. Maybe I'll see him again, maybe not. I hope he doesn't become dinner for some turkey or hawk or raccoon any time soon. But I was quite struck at how comfortable he was sharing space with me, and that I was not a threat. Perhaps it was because I was rather non-anxious myself.
But I thought about my new-found toad acquaintance, and the collect, and the notion of the "things that are passing away." We tend to think of "companionship" as a rather long term and semi-permanent thing. The reality is the companions we mostly meet in our life's journey are not very permanent at all. After all, how many of us are still best friends with our 2nd grade companions?
The truth is companionship is more fleeting than we want to admit. For most of our companions, we will have to navigate a period of loss. When close friends move away, more often than not, even if we stay in touch, our relationship changes. I've thought about that lately a lot. One of my closest friends around here moved away some time back. We stay in touch, but it is not the same, because we don't have the shared experiences in the same community from week to week. We could always count on us having an important set of shared experiences each week. Now there are new names and new people in each of our lives and we are going, "Who's that?"
I remember this same person telling me about a time in a certain work environment. "I've never had an easy a time with a bunch of co-workers, before or since. A couple of them had already moved away or changed jobs before me, and by the time I moved away, we already knew that this magic time we had at work was over. It was okay, but it was never quite the same."
I've found myself grieving the loss of this particular friend, off and on, at the oddest times. I never had a friend quite like that--one that was brutally honest, yet at the same time, incredibly sympathetic. I have some wonderful friends, and this is not a slam at them at all. It's just this one was different in some way--easier, free of social discomfort, much more transparent. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever have a friend like that again. I guess the answer is, "Maybe, maybe not--but I also have to be open to what I have in my present friends."
I also think about, now and then, people I used to hang the moon and stars upon, and something went cold or sour. There's only one of those relationships I ever got back, and I consider it somewhat miraculous. How can we be so close to some people and then drift so far apart? It's not like my little toad pal, whom I had no expectations that it would be a long-term companionship. These are people who, at the time, it felt like nothing could come between us. But the reality is all kinds of things can come between any of us.
When I think about this collect, I am reminded that sometimes, people are called to intersect in our lives for a season, and that's it. There's a reason we were thrown together, and the reason ends. When we try to hang on for a longer period, it doesn't "just not work"--it, frankly, usually gets worse. More often than not, it gets jealous or contentious. I'm becoming convinced more and more, when I start to see a friendship cool off, or feel a contentiousness building steam, to just back out and let it go. Mentally say goodbye, thank God for a good run in a good season, and move on.
What endures, I believe, is not the relationship--it's the thread in the carpet of human nature that continually draws us to other human beings. One thread ends and another begins, much like coming to the end of a skein of yarn and needing to start another.
I can't change tomorrow, I can't change yesterday. I can only be non-anxious about today.