Non-Optional Friendship

October 4th, 2009


Do you have any friends? Really close friends? Friends for life?

I came to a startling revelation a few months ago. I don’t have any friends. I don’t. I have a lot of acquaintances but, other than my wife, I really have no close friends.

I’ve had some friends in the past, but not many. Eventually something happened—nothing sinister, just something—like moving, having a baby, changing jobs, building a home, going back to school, changing churches; nothing bad or wrong, just something that happened and, the next thing I knew, another friendship slowly eroded.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are half a dozen guys who I consider to be close, caring people and who I always look forward to being with. They are people with whom, on occasion, I have shared my guts…and I would again. They are people who know how to have fun, who accept me as I am—no pretense, no persona to maintain—just simple, meaningful relationships.

But a close friend? Nope. Not one.

You are probably wondering why. I have been wondering why for a long time. After some very painful soul-searching, I think I have discovered the reasons.

I am too busy. I am gone too much, travel too much, speak too much, and work too much. I have done an excellent job of convincing the people around me that I am too busy—too busy doing the very important work that I am doing—to have any time for friendships. In other words, I have “snowed” everyone around me. I have convinced them to buy into the myth of my busy-ness to such a degree that the possibility of my being their friend (or them being mine) never enters their mind. That’s what people like me do. We hide behind the walls of our busy-ness so that we don’t have to worry about anyone wanting to be our friend. You see, people don’t want to impose. They don’t want to rob my wife and me of the very few moments we have together, so they enable us by staying away from us so that we can be even busier.

This week I am speaking in England, next week New York, the week after that Hawaii, then Australia, then Dallas, then Vancouver. And then I come home for a few days…exhausted, jet lagged, useless to everyone around me while my body and mind adjust to the new and unfamiliar surroundings—my home. I spend a day with my wife and kids getting reacquainted, and all the while I’m anxious to get to the phone messages and correspondence that have fallen way behind. I’m home, but I’m not home. I am present, but I am not really present. And then one morning I wake up and realize that I am alone. Very alone. I realize I need to do something about all of this, then I race to catch the plane for my next trip and vow to change when I get home. But I never do.

When will it occur to those of us who are in the ministry, who are in the public eye, that we cannot keep doing this? We cannot keep hiding behind our busy schedules. We cannot keep acting like we have no choice because without us the world will fall apart.

Instead of the world falling apart, we fall apart…or our families, or our kids, or our congregations fall apart.

I’ll never forget a statement Janis Joplin once made after a big concert: “I’ve just made love to 25,000 people and I’m going home alone.”

Let me speak as bluntly as I possibly can to all of us, including myself: If we are too busy to have friends, we are much too busy. If we are too busy to have time for our families, kids, or neighbors, we are much too busy. Most of us in the ministry are lone rangers, isolated from everyone, separated by our “fame” and our giftedness. We have surrounded ourselves with employees whose job is to keep the peons away from us. No wonder so many ministers crack up. No wonder so many ministers end up having affairs, or end up using their churches as a place to pad their pocketbooks and/or build monuments to themselves.

Friendship is not an option for Christians.

Jesus’ disciples were friends, not groupies…even Judas.

Let’s get real. Let’s quit being so busy. Take a sabbatical. Take the time required to build the kind of friendships that will last. After all, that’s what Jesus did. He wasn’t so busy that He didn’t take time to make friends first, then disciples. He only had three years. Isn’t that one of the great parts of the Good News? The God of the Universe—Who should be fairly busy Himself—wants to be our friend.

Instead of building a ministry to thousands, maybe we ought to build a friendship with one. Instead of speaking 200 times a year, maybe we ought to listen to our children and our spouse. Maybe we should be known not for how many converts we make or radio stations we acquire or crusades we hold. Maybe we should be known as someone who knows how to have friends.

I have decided to make some friends.

It will mean I have to stay home. It will mean I have to spend time with someone doing absolutely nothing. It will mean I have to work at something that is not easy for me. But I am not worried. My friend Jesus is willing to help.

Back to Mike Yaconelli's columns.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.