The Mystery of Unrequited Friendship…


I was thumbing through my facebook… ok… mousing through…. and ran across a new friend addressing another friend of hers…. is that clear? Maybe not… anyway… she posted that, although she had tried to befriend this person, she wasn’t on her list of friends, but she was able to read the posts of the prospective friend. So my new friend was confused as to why she could read about the other person’s life, but they weren’t yet official friends.

Actually, I think I may have some friends like that. I know all about their life, because they tell me about it, yet we really haven’t known each other very long. Like a young man I met at the orientation for my new job. We were hanging outside aftward, and he came up to bum a cigarette… oh… and my cell phone. My daughter was in town for a visit, so she was driving my pick-up, and I was waiting for her to pick me up. He was waiting for his girlfriend to get him. As we stood there talking, this guy just starts telling me all this personal stuff, and I am thinking, “Dude! You don’t KNOW me, and you’re just laying it all out there…” Either pretty trusting or pretty needy. I didn’t mind, I’m always interested in people’s stories, but sometimes a little self-editing is in order. You never really know what someone else will do with it, or what they will think when you just unload all this stuff in their lap.

I have a couple of other friends at the Starbucks I live at. One of them is a homeless woman who calls me “Paul” all the time. She usually hits me up for a cigarette, too. If I have them, I share. She really has some difficulty with reality, I’m thinking. She used to have a 19-year-old daughter that hung out there with her, but the daughter is now living with the woman’s sister. We had an extended conversation once, and she told me that the city police department stole 1 million dollars from her, got her kicked out of her house, suspended her license, beat her up, and continue to harrass her. At that time, she was looking for a lawyer to sue, and carried around a spiral notebook into which she wrote all the things she could remember that the police did to her.

Another friend there, is a former comedian and bartender, who now lives with his parents to take care of them. He has a pretty sad life right now, and spends most of his time talking with pride about his younger brothers while talking himself down. We hang out and talk, although when I am studying, I kind of hope he will just read… but usually he likes to talk. He thinks my name is “Paul” too, because he heard the homeless woman call me that. He now introduces me to other people that he talks to as, “…Paul, my favorite theologian…”

So…now… I have a homeless woman who thinks I am Paul…

…a former comedian, who thinks I’m Paul…

…a pastor from a local church (where former-comedian attends sometimes) who thinks I am Paul…

…a woman pastor (with blue eyes who former-comedian was sitting by the other day when I came in) who thinks I am Paul…

All the baristas know my name, but I am becoming “Paul” to a larger and larger number of people who hang out in the coffee shop. I think it is kind of funny, and have been thinking of seeing how many people will come to know me as “Paul” and how many as “Larry”. Maybe that is weird or a little cruel to the people who continually get my name wrong, or shows I have some deep seeded attachment issues…. I don’t know.

I’ve been thinking about that… about friendship…

How do we know who our friends are and who aren’t? Is that quandary answered when things get hard, or are there some friends who are better suited for difficult times and others for light, fun times? Do we really need to distinguish who our friends are, or does friendship just happen organicly? Can single men and single women be  “just” friends? Are there different friends for different times in our lives or different things we like to do?

And what about God? Can God be a friend? Does the all-powerful-lives-forever-pure-and-holy-everywhere-at-once-knows-everything-about-us-thing get in the way? How would we treat God if God were our friend? How would God treat us? Would either of us go out of our way to hang out together? Would we tell everything about ourself without getting to know one another? Can God be both a guy-friend and a girl-friend…at the same time? What if you wanted to hang out with God, where would you go? Could we really consider God a friend, if we never got to know God’s family, or does God’s family make God as crazy as your family makes you?

What if friendship with God were possible, and all it took was an open mind?

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