Thursday, October 02, 2008

Friends (Not the Show)

I'm feeling especially thankful this week for the gift of having friends. I think our move to London carried with it the underlying fear that we wouldn't find new friends, a new sense of community, in a new place. We had lots of family in and around Burbank, and so many good relationships with people at our church in Glendale. I think that some of the stress of coming here was wondering if we'd develop close friendships...the sort of people we could enjoy and help and rely on.

The answer has been a good way.

God has blessed us with some great people around here; you've seen some of their names go by in earlier posts. Last week I went to an Arsenal match with some guys I know here, both missionaries in urban London, and we had a great time. Of all the kinds of relationships I wanted or hoped for, I didn't expect to meet guys from the States who shared my desire to see the Gospel preached and lived in London. Today as I sit in my office I've booked a couple of lunches with friends here over the next week that I'm already looking forward to. Last weekend we had a group of young married couples over for lunch, and this weekend we're having dinner with a family with kids around Ian's age. We're also seeing some close friends from Glendale who have just moved to Paris. They're coming over to London to get their visas in order and we get to spend some good time with them before we see them in Paris next week. I catch myself looking forward to all of these events.

The complicated part of the answer is that God has taken care of us by strengthening or growing some of the friendships we had before. Julie's brother Bill and I still talk often, and as much as I miss hanging around with him I know that our friendship is still alive and changing. There's more to this part of the story. Earlier this week it became painfully aware to me that I didn't understand the basics of what was happening in the financial markets. That matters to me, not just because my retirement and mortgage and future work are affected by it, but also because many of the people in my church work for financial institutions. The largest segment of American expats in London are in industries connected to banking and finance, and it occurred to me that I didn't feel equipped to serve them effectively during these scary times.

So I wrote my questions to a friend of mine in the States who I knew could explain it to me. Over the last few days he's been a source of information and encouragement as I try to develop a pastoral response that matters, and in the process we've been reminded of how much we enjoy and value each other. What a gift.

The point is that we didn't replace our community from home. Many of those friends are still friends in an immediate sense, and that's great. Our new friends in London add depth and spice to the network of relationships we had before, and it's wonderful. And so I'm aware today, in this moment, of how much God has blessed us with people who care about us, who need us, and who enjoy being together. Like I said, what a gift.

Becoming aware of a blessing puts a healthy burden on people who seek to be disciples of Jesus. From the earliest pages of the Bible, God offers gifts to his people and then hands them the responsibility to share that blessing with others. The people of Israel were shown favor not because they were uniquely qualified or special, but so that they could be agents of blessing to the world. The message that gets lost when we talk about the Chosen People is that it was God doing the choosing, and that it was to be an example of his love, his power, and his grace to his creation.

If I'm going to talk about how blessed I am to have these great friends in my life, then I'd better respond by sharing that gift with others as well.

How about you?

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