This blog topic was developed while on a recent kayaking trip where I had the pleasure of taking my wife and two of her closest friends kayaking.  It was a joy to watch these ladies laugh and talk the whole time.  It was a wonder we ever saw any wildlife.  Sorry Ian that I didn’t mention you specifically in the blog, but I had fun talking to you also. 

I have recently been giving some though to friendships and going through life alone even with people all around us.  You may ask how can I be alone with so many people around me, my house is crazy and there are people all over the place.  If you’re like me, there have been times where I craved an evening to myself without interruptions.  But this is not what I am talking about here.  I’m talking about having people around you and still not be known for who you truly are.  I’m talking about having people around you and not having anyone who can be there for you when those life struggles confronts you.  You may not admit it, but just like everyone else, you struggle with them.

To me this problem seems to boil down to three simple things.  The first is time and the second is fear.  Fear comes from being seen as someone wired or someone who really don’t have it all together.  I have come to the conclusion that both time and fear are big parts in our loneliness.  I wonder why we struggle with this; then I began to see a third really simple reason we are lonely.  We don’t see our lives and our relationships as a gift.  Yes, life and relationships are a gift.  All too often we have seen our relationships as something for us to use to get what we want, not something that can be leveraged (my pastor uses this word and I like it) to change me and those around me for the better.       

 I recently had the opportunity to take three ladies on a kayaking trip that have been very good friends for some time.  These friends had not seen each other since the wedding of one of the ladies last summer.  As I watch them laugh and giggle with each other on this trip, I thought about how wonderful it is to be such good friends together once again.  I also thought about how wonderful it was for these ladies to pick up right where they had left off their relationships.  Their friendship has stood the time and distance. 

What made these ladies strong enough to stand to time and distance?  The most oblivious thing that comes to my mind is spending time together.  But I think there is more to it than that.  I remember when I worked at UNCW, I spent a lot of time with the people that I worked with, but that did not lead to the friendship that I saw in these ladies.  I found myself wondering what it was that brought these ladies together.  One of these ladies is a single missionary in Africa, the second has been married for only year and now lives in the DC area, while the third lady is older and has been married 27 years and has grown children.  So you can see these ladies are all in different places of their lives. 

I am not sure if they realize this, but deep down they see that this relationship is not their own.  They see their relationship as a “gift” from God.  They look at this relationship at what they can “give” to each other, not what they can “get” from each other.  I have to admit that I know this to be true, because I am married to the third lady.   To me, this is refreshing to see, especially in the world that we live in today. 

As I look around, I am coming to realize that all too often most of us our relationships as what “I” can get from it.  Will my buddies make me happy;  will this new girl friend make me feel special; will being on this team help me get into college; will going to church make may family better; how will the new business relationship do for me; will my wife make me happy for all my life?  The list is endless.  All I am simply saying is that we tend to do this with all of our relationships, including these closest to us.  The sad thing is the world seems to teach this mindset to us from a very early age. 

I have to admit, I have fallen in this trap more than once in my marriage to Diane and with other relationship I have been given.  I suspect that if you are honest with yourself, you would admit that you have done the same.  I can’t help but wonder if each of us began to see our relationships as a gift; things would be different in our lives.  I can safely say that in my most important relationship (with Diane), once I got to the point and realized that my happiness did not depend on what I could get from her, my prospective began to change.  I found that I was able to truly begin to love her for who she is, not what I could get from her.  Our relationship began to change when I began thinking of our marriage relationship as a gift and how I could be a blessing to her.

It is strange how my mind can wonder while out kayaking in the great outdoors.  Maybe it is because of all the quiet and solitude found out in the wilderness kayaking and hiking.  I suspect that in those quite times, God is transform me into who He created me to be.  I for one will be a far better person when I see all my relationship for what they are, a wonderful gift meant for a higher purpose than mine.