I often fear that I am not a very good friend to my friends. I tend to require friendships that do not require a lot of maintenance. But that’s just the thing with relationships; they don’t have shelf lives. Lots of things do have shelf lives. I’m pretty sure the shelf life of a Little Debbie snack cake is two hundred years. (I just totally made that up, but it’s got to be in that neighborhood.) Those nasty little snacks can live in your pantry for months without decomposing or losing their flavor. There must be something wrong with that.
I’m not a bread baker. I’m not any kind of baker, but I have learned recently a bit about bread baking from a patient of mine at the hospital. He is a bread baker. He was talking a bit about his bread baking and told me how he has to nurture his bread “starters”. Apparently these starters require a good bit of daily attention if they are going to grow to the point that they can be used to bake delicious, fresh, homemade bread. Yum.
Relationships are like that. No matter if you are talking about family relationships, marriage relationships, friendships, or even a relationship with God, relationships must be nurtured if they are going to grow. Relationships are more like that bread starter, and less like a Little Debbie snack cake.
I have been guilty of shelving relationships before. There are just times in my life when I don’t have enough time to invest in friendships the way I would like to. My primary focus, my most important relationship must always be with my heavenly Father. Then I must keep up my marriage relationship, and as a mom, I have to continue to nurture the relationships with my kids. Sadly, these days of full time working leaves precious little time to invest in many more relationships than those.
It’s not that I don’t want to have those relationships, I do. When I have to shelve them, I miss them. We all need people pouring into our lives, and we need to invest in others, too. That’s when I have to get strategic with my time. It’s really not fair to others when we decide to shelve a relationship we had once invested in. So often when we go back to a relationship we shelved, we find it has fallen apart in our absence.
I have been blessed to have a few wonderful friends who have weathered being put up on the shelf, but those are very few, and very far between. The reality is, when we park a relationship, it’s going to decompose. Relationships are often fragile, and they do demand attention, some more than others. One exception to this has always been my best friend, Tammie.
We were college roomies and always thought we’d our lives in community together. But life paths were not what we thought they would be, and time and distance hampered our relationship somewhat. Luckily, this was a rare friendship that did have a bit of a shelf life to it. Tammie was always a friend that I could call after several months, and it was like we had talked just the day before. The preciousness of that was not lost on me. Now, I live just a mile from my best friend, attend church with her, and talk to her at least a couple of days a week. What I have noticed since I have been able to invest in this relationship, though, is that while it has always been good, it is phenomenal now. Even relationships with a small shelf life will blossom with regular intentional attention.
Who have you put up on the shelf? Your spouse? A parent? Maybe God? While we have to be realistic about the time we can invest in our relationships, most of us could carve out a bit more to invest in the people who mean the most to us. We are called to walk this life together. Don’t fall for the myth that relationships have shelf lives. Wouldn’t you rather have a piece of warm homemade bread than a Little Debbie snack cake? I sure would!