Years ago, I wrote a small article with ambition to eventually submit it to Kinfolk Magazine on the topic of resolutions. I didn’t ever submit it and that resolution never accomplished. However, the piece detailed how I ordinarily reflect on the past year throughout Winter's steady, yet stubborn decline instead of at the top of the New Year. Similar to many, I’m sure, my reflections rested on the areas of my life, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically that didn't quite stack up to the aspirations they were meant to surpass. As snow melts and flower buds groggily begin to stretch into Springtime existence, this is traditionally when I pen redirections for my life and resolve to live anew for another year; excising the benign to make room for the healthy. As 2018 is a new year I wanted to do something new. So, primarily at the urging of my wife, I wrote down a ‘New Year’s’ list of destinations I want to arrive at as a person to mark the next 365 days.
One of the destinations I'm hoping to be well on the journey toward if not to arrive at entirely is that of how to steward and cultivate stronger, healthier, and more authentic relationships in my life. Toward the close of 2017, right after I moved to London, my pastor, Tim Chaddick of Reality Church London, preached a sermon on the topic of relationships, primarily friendships. Within the message, there were two points that grasped me tightly and have gone on to define my last three months of life and hopefully will continue to do so throughout 2018 and into the rest of my life.
For the last three years, my relationships, for the most part, weren't that intentional. Sure, with some people I was determined to go deeper with, but even at my best, I wasn't sowing the seeds of friendship I wanted to reap later on. Having lived in San Francisco, a city defined relationally by transience, where everyone says to everyone else how great it would be to hang out but then never actually commits, leaving an entire population feeling isolated outside of their internet lives lived through little hand-held computers. Rather than attempting to build rooted community, I slowly abandoned investing in people to instead invest in Netflix and film after film after film. I ended up at a place where I could talk about how good or bad every new show was but know close to nothing about what was happening in my friend's lives.
It wasn't until hearing Tim talk about relationships that I realized what I needed to mend internally and re-prioritize in my life. To be a good friend he said, a person must be available and reliable in the lives of others. It seems so simple now, however at the time, it hit me like a metaphorical brick in the face (think Home Alone 2: Lost in New York brick in the face). It became crystal clear what the problem was which was keeping me from having friendships like I had before at other stages of life and also what restrained me from developing new ones. I let myself be remade by a culture that placed more emphasis on self-gratification than on making time for others. Rather than committing time to those around me, it became easier to talk about the idea of doing it and then letting those potential friendships slip into ambiguity. If we want to have meaningful bonds with others, it's not sufficient to have only good intentions, but necessary to be willing to be second to those we want to know and available to their needs. Reliability isn't merely showing up to the party after RSVPing via Eventbrite, but being present through each other's darkest and lightest moments; being open to perhaps not having our own needs met to meet the needs of those around us.
Although I usually exclude myself from the tradition of New Year's resolutions in lieu of what I've viewed as the far superior Springtime resolutions season, I'm thankful that I was pushed to consider what benefit it might have for this next phase of life. There is a whole host of aspects of my personhood that I want to improve upon and have reshaped throughout this next year. One of the primary ones is this idea of being more available to first God, and then to others. From there I hope to develop into a friend who can be counted on and who is reliable. A life modeled after Christ's is one that moment-by-moment chooses to intentionally live self-sacrificially for the betterment of others. I want a life brimming with time for those around me and perhaps a little less for mindless consumption of what my many monthly subscriptions say I should be spending time with.