Recently one of the best and most influential professors from my college career passed away. What makes it difficult is how hard it is for us to realize how important and special people are when we are around them on a regular basis. If 41-year-old Aaron, could go back and have a chat with 18 to 20-year-old Aaron he would tell him to appreciate his professors more, to let them know that they were important and appreciated.
This past year has seen several of my college professors pass on to their great and as far as I’m concerned well deserved reward and rest. When I read that Dr. Dusing had passed, I was sad, mainly at my failure to recognize and at least thank the men and women who had an impact on my life at a young age, and whose lessons are just now being realized.
I’m blessed to have a couple of the professors of my youth as friends on Facebook. Recently the professor that I would have to say was my favorite at SEC, posted the eulogy he wrote for his friend, as my ADD ran wild during sermon prep for Sunday, i read the document shared with those of us who cared to read it. I will admit to a tear in the eye as I read the love and respect and deep friendship that he shared. Dr. Fettke, thank you for sharing something so personal. Know that I appreciate you and the work, dedication, and calling you have continued to answer throughout the life God gave you.
Now to the not so great part of this blog. The pity party part of the equation, along with the emotion and admiration, I felt very keenly a deep sense of jealousy. Jealousy for a friendship like the one described, spanning decades, full of mutual respect, willingness to say what needed to be said, gracious, loving. I want this, but don’t have it, and I have to wonder…
The problems we Gen Xr’s have are myriad and have been written on, discussed, studied and debated for years. To some we’re angsty, mistrusting, slackers who don’t get it. Our personalities punctuated by dark humor, deep sarcasm, and an inability to see the bright side. Our music punctuated with angry guitar licks, foreboding lyrics, and anti-establishment rhetoric, and while I love listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the Chilli Peppers, there is more to us. I just think that we don’t know how to have long-term friendships. We want them, we know on paper what it takes to maintain a friendship, we know but we don’t KNOW if that makes sense.
We used to have friends. People who we could call, people we knew would be around no matter what. We used to have people we hung out with, we called, we would travel across states to be with to talk to, to hang out with, to encourage or to gain encouragement from, but they are all gone. For some reason the connections failed, which is funny when you think about it. We now have the ability to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world. Distance doesn’t need to be an issue, we can even play together if we are so inclined on the console or computer of our choice. We can be super social, share pins, use Instagram to keep up to date real-time on vacations, food, family, the list is endless as far as the pictures we can share in a second. All of this is just another condemnation of my own inability to stay connected, to have friends that count.
When I finished reading Dr. Fettke’s eulogy of his friend, I told J I was sad, because I don’t have anyone that I could write a eulogy for and that would write one for me as full of connection as that one was. It’s sad and pathetic, and wrong, but equally troubling is the fact that I don’t know how to fix the problem. So much water has gone under the bridges of past friendships, my life has changed, my faith has evolved, my priorities have shifted, I feel hurt and angry at the people I was close to because they don’t reach out to connect, but I’m no better, I don’t reach to connect either. Making new friends is equally daunting, I want to do it, but always hold back, because they won’t be around in 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years. The result, I have acquaintances, people I’m fond of, people I like, people I even call friend, but they aren’t eulogy friends.
This all came screaming to the front of my brain and out of my finger tips after a particularly rough day. I got home walked the dog, unbuttoned my shirt, kicked off my shoes, and wanted to connect, to vent, to have someone listen. I ended up tweeting a guy who knows of me, knows the challenges we face in our ministry, because he has lived through similar, but who lives in Canada, ministers in Canada, writes books, and speaks at conferences. He tweeted me back, which was cool said he was sorry to hear it. Real interaction, much appreciated, but sad because I feel closer to a successful author and pastor of a church in a different country than I do with anyone within 50 miles of me. I’m not sure what I expected from the tweet, but I sucked up the response like it was water and I had been in the Mojave for three days.
Vocational ministry is one of the loneliest professions around. Add to that the job description of lead pastor or senior pastor or only pastor or whatever you want to call it, and it’s even lonelier. Every service is an evaluation, and the self-evaluation is always much harsher than any you receive from members. Every book you read, every conference you attend speaks to the importance of developing a network of ministers to talk to, to spend time with, to be accountable to. Ministers need friends that are in the business because they understand the issues, and they need friends outside the business that treat them like one of the guys or girls. We know this, we crave this, but it’s not easy. I know this I crave this, but I don’t know HOW to do it.
We went to Ohio for Christmas and while I was walking the dog in our old neighborhood I realized something. The first day I walked down to the park I thought how great it would be to move back, we own a house, there’s a great park for the dog etc. I miss this I thought. As the day’s wore on though I realized something. I don’t miss Ohio, I don’t miss the Park or the House, I miss the relationships that defined that time in our lives. I miss my contentedness to friends that I’m no longer connected too.
Am I to blame in all of this, sure. Can it be fixed? I don’t like to ask myself that question, because I’m pretty sure I know the answer and well it’s not a great one.
I’m almost a hundred percent sure we aren’t alone, I’m sure J and I are one of many who feel the same way. Maybe we should start a support group… lol
See you around the Blog…