Wednesday 25 June 2014

Staying Connected in Another Way

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

To begin this blog entry, I would first invite you to imagine the faces of those with whom you have stayed in contact. They can be loved ones, families from afar, old friends, new acquaintances, and so on. Recall the bond that makes you want to remain in contact with this person. This is the “who”s.

Secondly, think about the ways in which you have remained in contact with these people. It can be a short text message from your smart phone, or “liking” the Facebook update of another. You may prefer old-school methods such as writing an email, or a hand-written letter. Perhaps you are reliant on your Facebook account or Google Calendar to remind you of their birthdays; I know I am. This is the “how”s.

Finally, what is the content of such an exchange? Is it a simply “happy birthday”, a “LOL” to a comment, or a more detailed and profound update of your life? What do you share with this person?This is the “what”s. Take some time to reflect on these points.

This is a small exercise to understand how we handle our relationships, and friendships in particular. It is true that we feel closer to some, but not so much to others; nevertheless, this does not prevent us from keeping our exchanges meaningful. This is especially pertinent to the way we connect with each other through social media. If we want instant gratification with little reciprocation, then an app like “Yo.” does indeed make sense. And this is precisely the question: How much are we willing to invest into our friendships? Time is at a premium for most of us, but we still manage to find time for the important things in life. This boils down to whether we consider friendships as worthy of our intentionality.

Friendship is a matter of mutual giving. The meaningfulness of our exchange is an indication of its quality. For Christians, being intentional about friendships has yet another level: it is to pray for each other. This is not a mere pious version of “I am thinking of you”, as this phrase can only go as far as the natural limit of a human being. To pray for someone is to entrust the other into the hands of God. It is to trust that the Lord of all being will lead the other to the fullness of life as it has been intended, not as I have intended. It is to admit that there is only so much that I can do, but I entrust my friend to something – or Someone – much greater. It is an act of letting go and of love. When our friendships are sustained in God, we are connected in a way that is not bounded by time or space.

Prayer allows us to remain connected with our friends in the most meaningful way possible. With this in mind, I invite you to revisit the “who”s, “how”s, and “what”s again. How often do we pray for our friends, and let them know about it? Or, how often do we ask our friends for prayers? How intentional are we with this?

For myself, I like to write personalised emails that ask about my friends' spiritual life, so that I can have something concrete to pray for. For those of you who are Facebook users, you can select five friends from your list and take your time to pray for them each day. Think about the friend, give thanks for the gift that she is to you, and pray for her specific needs. We can all think of creative ways to approach this. The more intentional we are about praying for a friend, the more meaningful our friendship becomes.

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