by Jane Hoppe
I’m embracing phone-yness, and my faith is growing as a result.
Phone-yness is what I call the habit of phoning church friends just to chat. Synonyms: pursuing, caring, enjoying, reaching out, pursuing true community. Antonym: the lazy habit of saying, “See you at church,” which is traditional phoniness, or counterfeit community.
What happens when your social life consists mostly of institutionally arranged events like church on Sunday, bible study group, holiday or birthday parties, singles picnics, or a women’s tea? You get the feeling of friendships, without the fullness of friendship. Your calendar looks like you have community, but without phone-yness, you can’t have authentic, intimate connections. Phone-yness combines personal pursuit with quality time. The phone-yness concept—without the actual telephone—is what God and we give in the act of drawing near to each other.
During periods of my life filled with many church group meetings, I felt as though I was waving and blowing air kisses from behind a train window to church friends on the platform. What I longed for was one-on-one, heart-sharing time in the train station café. Even a bear hug on the train platform would have been better than all those air kisses. What I had was relationships without true friendships. For those of us whose lifeline used to be a pink Princess phone, even texts and e-mails feel like air kisses.
I do have places for connection at church. My small group prays for me with deep compassion, a tangible expression of Christlike love. Perhaps your small group cares and prays for you, too. After your church service, conversations aren’t always superficial; you may share transparently with your sisters in Christ. Just as you begin to tear up about your prodigal teen’s latest folly, your friend’s nonprodigal toddler finds her in the corner of the church lobby, gloms onto her thigh; and the long hug she was about to give you becomes a squeeze of your shoulder and a promise to pray for you during the week. She may even remember to ask you about your teen next Sunday at church. Air kisses. And oh, the women’s retreat felt like such a mountaintop experience with real connections with other women. But afterward, I am home alone—unless one of the women believes in phone-yness.
When I brought up the importance of personal pursuit to my women’s bible study group, ten women resonated that a “see you at church” culture doesn’t deliver what the bible calls us to, and it certainly doesn’t imitate God. Everyone wanted community but struggled to feel connected. They admitted they sign up for “see you at church” programs with this logic: I might as well be busy instead of just lonely.
Girlfriends from my church are treasures beyond measure. They have stuck with me through tough times. They have been honest with me. They have pointed me toward God, sought divine answers on my behalf, and shared pain from their hearts to help me. But not many imitate the aspects of God that are most intimate—pursuit and enjoyment of me. Oh happy day when a girlfriend calls just to talk!
We talk about everyday life. We talk about books we like, decorating, pets, politics, work, frustrations, triumphs. We share joys and sorrows. We talk with each other in much the same way I talk with the Lord, about daily things. No subject is too small. When a friend calls just to talk about life, to suggest tea or a walk or a movie, or to discuss a magazine article or her vacation, I feel pursued and enjoyed for who I am.
I love making these phone calls too. I want to give friends the gift of knowing I’m thinking of them and I enjoy them. I know they won’t all return every call. Just as Jesus knows every time He stands at the door and knocks, we won’t click off the TV to talk with Him. But when we do, we say, “I value You” in an intimate way beyond, “God, I’ll see you at church.” Knowing God and being known is what life is about. Personal pursuit is how that happens.
Similarly, in courtship, don’t you want a man to call you? How else can you know he wants to be with you? One frequent problem in marriage is that husbands stop making dates with you. In their minds, they’re saying “See you at the dinner table” or “See you for the six o’clock news,” which is the marriage equivalent of “See you at church.”
Back in the years when companies gave more than cost-of-living raises, general wisdom was that to substantially advance your salary, you had to switch companies. Has this become true in the church too—that to build friendships, we have to switch churches? As I look at my social life today, all but one of the women who pursue my friendship don’t go to my church. They cannot say, “See you at church.” They cannot rely on someone else to plan get-togethers. So they call me on the phone. We talk! And it’s wonderful.
You’re busy. I’m busy. Our friends are busy. With all our programmed activities, we might feel time is too short for long bear hugs. But don’t you want more than air kisses? I do. I’m going to call a friend right now. I encourage you to practice phone-yness, and pursue a girlfriend today.
Jane Hoppe writes both fiction and nonfiction. Her debut novel, first in the Maria Beaumont series, is Beyond Betrayal. She writes two blogs, www.aquajane-musings.blogspot.com, eclectic musings on life, middle age, and book reviews, and www.reflectionsoneldercare.blogspot.com, reflections on eldercare, loving Mom and Dad in their old age, along with caregiver resources. Jane’s website is www.janehoppe.com. Other interests are all things French and organic gardening.