A friend... that is a facebook friend posted a link to an article that caught my attention. It was called 'the friendless Pastor: How to Address our perennial problem' by Mark Bouwer in the march online version of 'The Leadership Journal". As I read it I found myself looking in a mirror. This summed me up very well... and when you do some cultural filtering. research into New Zealand culture shows that traditionally New Zealand males didn't have friends rather they had mate... people they relied on at work and would there for do some other activities with outside that, and you get a good picture of something I find myself reflecting on quite often... Add in busy weekends and days off that don't match up with the norm and limited income...
And the easy way in which people can find themselves venturing further and further into cyber space and the brief release of having connected with others or being wired in rather than actual face to face time. I no longer have to go to a cinema to see a movie and interact with someone to go with me rather I'll just watch it on my laptop. You don't even have to go to a book store or library any more and talk to people you can download or kindle-a-fy it.
And with the way that 21st century life seems to place everyone on a treadmill I'm not sure that it is solely a issue for pastors, it maybe a human or at least a male issue ... A Smashing Pumpkins quote seems appropriate here... "Despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage."
One thing that Bouwer does not mention is that as there are demands on your time that equally time with your family becomes more and more precious, and I enjoy my family and I'm marred to my best friend, but if I'm honest Mark Bouwer has hit on a very sensitive area of my life... I am an introvert, I need time by myself to recharge. I have to admit that I do find the time needed into investing in genuine community with others to be taxing on an already people filled existence (I often talk of people overload) and yes I do find myself to be rather bookish and solitary... I even jokingly responded to my friends posting of this link with "thank you I'll have to go off by myself and think it through'.
I have had an idea for a short story simmering in the back of my brain which I was going to title "the incredibly shrinking world of pastor Bob". It came to mind when I was living in Napier on a wonderful surf beach and found that my focus could shrink from the amazing reality of the grandeur of God's creation around me to focus on a small set of problems and an office which was also at my house... my world was shrinking and focusing on the Church... I would be surprised as I often am know in Auckland by walking round a corner and being confronted with an amazing view of the ocean, or the hills (here in Auckland the Waitakere's to the west) and realise that there was so much more beyond what I was focusing on. This Friendship thing is part of that shrinking world syndrome.
I recently went to a Bible Class reunion and it was good to meet up with people who I had shared my formative and young adult years with and to remember that genuine sense of belonging and community. There was an easy sharing of lives with each other that I enjoyed and found healthy and encouraging. Bouwer focuses on the idea of a group to belong to that makes a point of spending time together on a regular basis and maybe it's time to cultivate such a group. Writing about it just maybe the first step.