Definitions such as, "1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts. 2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance." strike me as far too vague and inadequate when compared to my vision of what I believe a friend to be.
An acquaintance is someone you say hi to in the halls at work. Someone you sit with at coffee break because you have to drink coffee and you'd like to have someone to do it with. An acquaintance is someone you friend on Facebook and only see at class reunions. A friend should be much more than that.
For many years I belonged to a group of women known as the SWABees. There were seven of us who had met and become good friends through the majority of our high school years. At the tender age of 19, after highschool graduation, we were determined to stay in contact, so we formed an organization. We desperately wanted an acronym that was fun and easy to say and remember so we came up with SWAB: Swinging Women's Association of Bachelorettes. Needless to say, we had no idea of the connotations of the word "swinging" at the time, and merely thought it meant we were gals who knew how to have fun! Simply put, our mission statement was to stay in touch--and for more than twenty years we did so.
We met at Christmas each year, and part of our routine was to go around our little circle, share our trials and accomplishments from the previous year, and keep a journal of our activities. And for twenty years I was reasonably satisfied with this arrangement--largely because we all had similar lifestyles, goals and priorities in our lives. Church being high on that list. The trouble started, not when I declared myself an atheist, but much earlier than that. The trouble started when I decided it was time to share with the group that I was writing smut.
I had to think long and hard about the decision to come out to them about that. But in the end I decided that as my friends I should trust them to accept me for who I was and support me in what I did. My trust was misplaced.
The initial news of my publishing success was received with...shall we say...cool detachment. Congratulations were minimal, if offered at all. But I gave them the benefit of the the doubt. It was a shock, no doubt. Surely the fact that I had always been outspoken, cheeky and had been cracking "That's what she said," jokes since before they were popular, was not enough to prepare them for the shock that I wrote books about gay anal sex. Give them a couple of years, I thought. Allow them time to adjust--and allow me time to forget the letter I received from a group member warning me of the dangers to my soul inherent in my chosen path.
But two years later nothing had changed. I thought certainly when I shared the news that I had been invited for an all-expense paid trip to Alberta to present a workshop on erotica writing, and of my giddiness over the success of the workshop...surely...surely then, their love for me as a friend of thirty years would trump their petty judgments. Again...I was wrong. My excitement was met with cold, absolute...heart-wrenching silence. I decided that night that it was time to cut the Swabee cord. If they couldn't support me in something so basic and inherent to my well-being as my happiness then they had no right to call themselves my friends. The next year I resigned from the group and now I only speak to them if I inadvertently run into them.
It strikes me now that my relationship with god followed a very similar course. It took a lot of years for me to figure out that he was getting a hell of a lot more out of it than I was. He got my love and devotion, got to hear me sing and play piano, and I gave up my Sunday morning leisure time for him. And what did I get in return? Inconsistencies and rationalizations, judgement, broken promises, and cold, absolute...heart-wrenching silence. It was time to cut the Jesus-cord.