One seat remained opened for breakfast. A conversation started and a week later a Facebook friend request was sent. Not necessarily the components of a chick flick, but this how I met my best friend and wife, Robyn. Two coffee dates, Facebook messages, exchange of phone numbers and the purchase of an iPhone for FaceTime later; a year of a long distance relationship began.
Bob Goff shares a powerful story in Love Does on friendship. During his high school years, he attempted to take a journey to find himself. A youth leader ends up joining him for this trip of self-discovery. The leader repeatedly tells Bob, “I’m with you.” You can imagine the implication of those words and the actions behind them.
A long distance relationship not only changed the way I communicated with Robyn, but also the way I communicated with friends. The people we truly value and appreciate – living near or far – are worth the effort to stay in touch. Friendship at any level is a series of actions and expressions which lead people to believe you are with them.
Here are a few insights on communicating with friends that I learned from a long distance relationship:
1. Make the first move.
We often wait for the other person to make the first contact: email, phone call, text message. Long distance taught me again and again to not make assumptions. When in doubt of who should contact whom, that would be a good time to take an initiative. There is wisdom in waiting because of extreme circumstance. I think all of us appreciate a person who contact us. If that is true for us, then it might be true for our closest friends.
2. Old school is new school.
Cards and letters may mean more today than ever. Not just just Christmas or thank you cards, but those pieces of contacts that come out of the blue. This might be nostalgic, but I still have the written pieces of communication from Robyn and other people. Instantaneous does not always equate to more meaningful. You have more power in the pen than you may realize.
3. Dare to commit.
All of us to some degree have busy lives. Yet, the friendships that mean the most to us have come by investing time and energy. Do people know who you really are? Long distance meant many nights on FaceTime. Sometimes it mean saying “no” so I could say “yes” to this friendship. Living in community with the right people gives us perspective; a gift, God uses to sharpen each of us. As Dr. Robert Rhoden said, “The people who know you the best should believe in you the most.” It’s not only making the time for people, but making the time for the right people.
4. Provide room for grace within the personality of your friends.
Some of us like contact and respond immediately. Others of us tend to take time to contact or respond. There were times when I needed to learn to wait and remember people need grace in the midst of the circumstances of their daily lives. It may also mean taking the time to respond a little sooner. Extending grace may take many forms in friendship, but this extension can communicate a deeper level of acceptance. At the root of this point is the serious question, “How can I approach friendship the way Jesus would?”
In a culture that can feel disconnected from authentic community, providing friendship with the “I’m with you” clause opens people to the reality of the Gospel. A long distance relationship taught me about pursuing friendship. What lessons are you learning on friendship in this season of your life?
Photo credit to Jessie Schnall, you can see more of her work at Portraits by Jessie.