I receive a fair amount of emails each day, mostly from close friends or relatives. Like most of us, I find some of the forwarded materials more interesting than others. Some days I feel like I am almost on “automatic” as I open, read and then delete or forward the items.
Today I received an email from a long-time friend with whom I reconnected a little over a year ago. This person was responding to an email on friendship that I had received and forwarded. As I responded I began to realize something about friendships that struck me in a slightly different way than it had before. I found myself trying to look into those relationships to find common denominators. In the past I might simply have chalked it up to "past life" connections (probably true, too), but I feel there is a more meaningful pattern--somewhat like a patchwork quilt with its many brilliant colors and designs all of which need the others to become what they are! Somehow, while some of these folks are geographically close and others far away, spiritually (and I don't mean the snooty, quasi "religious" type) the closeness has much more meaning. It also brings out a longing to be able to enjoy those friends more often and more closely.
Many years ago as I began preparations for the ministry, one of my instructors continually brought home the point that a minister should not carry friendships or connections established in one ministry on to the next ministry served. I was very young at the time without enough worldly experiences to measure against the statement and come to a moderate understanding of how to do that. As a result as I changed ministries I made it a point to sever almost all connections, including most friendships, with the ministry I was leaving. Fortunately, there were certain folks who would not let that happen. They made a point of seeking to maintain connections, to continue a friendship that meant something to them.
In the years that followed I have gone through many “transplants.” Unfortunately, that first teaching had made such an impression upon me that I found myself always starting over in new places without the benefit of the energy gained in the preceding relationships. Certainly, I had some connections that carried over, often due to the persistence of my friends more than my own.
The friend with whom these emails were exchanged popped up about the same time I was looking back over my experiences and trying to reconnect with those who had made the effort to be a part of my life in one way or another. I found some of these connections excited to again be in touch. Some, naturally, had moved on in their own lives.
The point I realized was that no one is in my life by accident. Even if I do not know why a particular person is in my life today or why another has moved on or I have moved on, there is a connection that has meaning. In the example of the patchwork quilt, all the pieces may begin in the jumble of a bag of scraps, some closer together than others. As the quilt-maker chooses each piece and carefully builds the patterns some pieces become more closely connected and some are in far corners and “apparently” disconnected. However, as one stands back a distance the perspective changes and it is clear that all are still connected and necessary to make the quilt whole and beautiful and useful.