CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Life and Faith for the Years of Winter
I was a psychology minor at university, and took basic pastoral counseling courses in seminary, and did more extensive academic work in psychology when I was doing doctoral work. Much of my best learning, though, was not in formal academic course work, but occasional workshops or lectures. One of my best teachers in those settings was William Schutz.
I was in my early thirties when I took a day-long workshop that Schutz led. At one point he divided us into groups of four. It was a big room with a lot of people. To get into our groups we had to sit on the floor. We followed the techniques Schutz gave us on how to interact.
The groups did not meet for long. Maybe only 30 minutes, maybe 60. I could not tell because it was such a terrific experience that the time flew by. My group partners were total strangers, but I had never felt closer to anyone in my life. We told one another things we had never told anyone before. Not anything dangerous or embarrassing, like murders or affairs or having voted for morons, but our deepest yearnings and fears.
Then the time was up. Reluctantly we got up off the floor and back into our wooden folding chairs. And it was over. Those people with whom I felt so close were strangers again. I had no desire to continue in relationship to them, and apparently they had no desire to hang out with me, either, even to the extent of saying goodbye when the day was over. It was just “a flight to the moon on gossamer wings.”
What was the problem? Well, maybe it was no problem at all. Some relationships are not meant to be “I & Thou,” not meant to be forever.
But if a problem existed, it was because of technique. Not bad technique, but the very presence of technique. Don’t get me wrong; techniques can be quite valuable. And Schutz had certainly developed a very effective technique for getting people into relationships quickly. But techniques are not valuable for everything. Friendships don’t grow out of technique, despite Sheldon Cooper’s best efforts on “The Big Bang Theory.” Friendships grow out of friendship.
I heard a football coach say that his players were good at running around the field doing football-like activities, but they weren’t good at playing football. Doing friendship-like activities is not the same thing as friendship.
I hold in such great admiration and affection the folks who have been willing to grow a friendship with me over years instead of over minutes. And although I cannot remember their names or faces, I appreciate those folks who spent some time on the floor with me that day; they helped me learn about friendships.
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If you have not yet read Katie Kennedy’s wonderful YA novel, Learning to Swear In America, get thee to a bookery!