This week I am hosting a series of posts written by my friend Lynne M Baab.
Lynne’s new book, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World, has received strong endorsements and reviews. Lynne is the author of numerous other books, including Sabbath Keeping and Reaching Out in a Networked World. Visit her website lynnebaab.com for reviews and other information about her books. Lynne is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister with a PhD in communication from the University of Washington, currently a lecturer in pastoral theology in Dunedin, New Zealand.
I had so much fun writing a book about friendship, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World, which has just been released. It gave me the opportunity to think about my own friends and what a gift they’ve been to me. It also allowed me to talk with dozens of other people about their friendships. I heard stories about friends who reconnected on Facebook after years of being out of touch. I heard stories about sacrificial actions of friends. I heard about all the ways people like to stay connected with their friends.
Some of the stories crossed generational lines. A woman in her 70s told me about getting her first cellphone a year ago. She found she got so addicted to sending and receiving text messages from her siblings and friends that she had to hide the phone in a cabinet so she would refrain from checking it every minute. I heard an 18-year-old talk about how much he hates texting and Facebook. He much prefers to hear people’s voices.
Some of the stories were painful. Friends who had experienced conflicts which were never completely resolved. People who cannot tolerate the spouse of a close friend, so the friendship withered. People who are lonely because they are afraid to share what they really think and feel with others.
Some of the stories were heartwarming. Several teenagers talked to me about how they use Facebook and texting to stay in close touch with their friends so they can support each other. They view cell phone and online communication as a way to show love and provide care. They shatter the stereotype of the self-absorbed teenager who spends time online in an addictive, consumerist fashion.
One twenty-year-old told me about leaving an online gaming community because he was spending too much time online with friends he had never met in person and too little time with friends and family members who he can see face-to-face. He called his online friendships “relationships without a context.” This young adult impressed me with his willingness to grow and change, to take action that makes him a healthier person, nudged and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
I am convinced that our friendships are an arena where we have the opportunity to learn to love, following after the model of Jesus and growing into his likeness, with the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to pay attention to your friendships, to watch for the leading of the Spirit and the call of God to show love. Sometimes the leading of God calls us to turn on our computers or cell phones and make contact with people we care about. Sometimes we are nudged to turn off our computer and write a card, make a phone call or go visit someone. God wants to guide us into actions of love in our friendships, and God will do that if we pay attention.