I received a letter the other day from a good friend. His letter was one of apology for not putting enough time and energy into our friendship. My friend was bemoaning the fact that he felt we did not have enough time for each other lately. That he believed we had grown apart and somehow that triggered something within him, which made him feel like he needed to move on, find another friend, but clear his plate by apologizing before he did.
His letter was as much a goodbye as it was an apology. I wish you peace and grace as you travel on your journey, he said.
His letter puzzled me. It also got me to thinking. I wonder if rather than saying goodbye in relationships we would do ourselves a much better favor by simply recognizing that there are seasons in relationships: spring, summer fall and winter. And none of these seasons are any better than the other; they just are seasons with their own unique attributes.
Perhaps my friend and I are in a winter season. The friendship is still, stagnant, even icy. And so, the best thing we can do for ourselves and for our friendship is to recognize and honor this season by pulling out the wool blanket, wrapping ourselves in solitude and finding a good cup of tea and a quiet book to warm us. Perhaps this season is one for pondering, wondering, listening for God to reveal some deeper wisdom that is nestled deep beneath the winter snow of our cold relationship.
I am finding the same sense of season with my spouse. We have entered the empty nester phase after launching our four children into adulthood. For me this new phase of life is a time of joy and growth and freedom. Yet for her it is a season of sadness, sometimes even darkness as she recognizes her identity as a mother for twenty- eight years is changing, shifting, she is not needed in the same way by the children like she did when they were young. And so she complains about a lack of intimacy with me, tries desperately to cling to us as husband and wife, fearing that something is lost in our relationship which she is trying to find.
I wonder however, if what she has lost is simply her sense of self, her voice, her ability to dream about who she wants to be without needing to be needed so deeply by the kids or me. I wonder if she took her hands off of the kids, and me would she find the wisdom to embrace her true self lying dormant within her all these years of nurturing others. Is it time for her to nurture herself?
And perhaps the lesson for me during this season of transition is not to try and run in and fix her or my friend, which is my tendency, but rather to give them both the time and space they need to grow on their own, with God guiding their hearts, trusting that eventually their feet will catch up with their souls.