Who Gathers You?


“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” — Toni Morrison, Beloved


Who gathers you? Who are the women in your life who see you—all of you—the ones that help you to stand straighter, walk smarter? Who are the women who are “friends of your mind?”

We all need friends like that, don’t we? But man, they are hard to come by. I’ve been pondering why that is and have quite a list of contributing factors. But I keep coming back to this one: We are in a perpetual hurry. Friendships-of-the-mind require time, intention and attention.

But we’re so busy. We’ve got so much to do. There are deadlines to meet, crying babies to tend, demanding bosses to deal with, and astronomically high expectations on top of it all.

It’s no surprise that we are habitually tired. In the midst of chronic fatigue, who has the space or emotional energy to build relationships that gather us? I am writing this in the middle of December, smack dab in the clutches of all things crazy. I am feeling a sense of loss in the center of me as I try to navigate it all. My husband was sick last week and I had two tickets to a Christmas concert. I could not, for the life of me, come up with someone to call and say, “Hey, can you join me?”

So now, as I carve out a few hours to be quiet and attentive to this particular writing deadline, I wonder: how can I do my life differently in the year that is rising before us? How can I become a woman who “gathers the pieces” of others and who finds friends who can gather the pieces of me?

That first part I’ve become pretty good at. I was a pastor for a lot of years and I’ve been a spiritual director as well. I know that I have been a gatherer-of-the-pieces for a lot of people, both women and men. I am grateful for each of those relationships and experiences.

But here’s where things get a little bit murky: most of those relationships are, by design, not mutual. I am someone “official,” sometimes even “expert” (saints preserve us!), and always, the-one-who-listens. I love that part. I’m grateful for my years as a pastor and I continue to enjoy my work in spiritual direction.

But there is a flip side, and this is it: most pastors are lonely. Did you know that? Something about the title tends to make people wary and careful about intruding too much. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, the voice of a pastor carries a strange kind of weight in any meeting or gathering.

The people to whom I feel closest, the ones who know me the best, are people I knew before I became a pastor. Which means almost all of my friends-of-the-mind live miles away from me. The busier I am, the less space there is for me to connect with them in ways that are meaningful.

The parameters around your own search for such friends may not look like mine, but I’m willing to wager that the search is as real for you as it is for me. One of the joys of this internet world is the sense of connection it has given me to people all over the place. I hear echoes of my own sadness from voices of all ages and stages of life. I’m deeply grateful for the real and strong friendships I’ve made through blogging and social media, but I am keenly aware that I need in-the-flesh friends, too.

Skype helps! I’m told that Voxer is also terrific, maybe because both of those kinds of media provide a taste of encounter—voice to voice, even face to face. That is exactly what is needed if we are to gather one another’s pieces and them give them back to each other in “all the right order.”

So I’m studying my calendar these days, prayerfully and intentionally. Where can I make more room? Where can I schedule in some gathering time? Who would God have me trust and invite? How can I build a more balanced life, one with less push and more space? One with room for friends-of-the-mind. Maybe you’ll join me?


Dear SheLovelys, I’d love to hear:

– Do you have a friend who helps gather the pieces of you?

– What do you think keeps us from connecting more closely with each other?

– What’s one of the best ways you’ve learned to build strong friendships or stay connected?


Image credit MikeKniec