Happy New Year!

As 2008 ended and we eased into 2009 my family were enjoying the company of some old and very good friends in a wee Aberdeenshire village.  We see far too little of them, but feel blessed in the knowledge that whenever we all do get together we seem to somehow manage to pick up where we left off.  Our friends were never ones for superficial chat when something of real significance could be said, and our time with them over Hogmanay and New Year’s Day was no different.  So many great conversations squeezed into so little time!  However, there was one particular strand of conversation that really struck home with me, as it echoed and expanded upon something I’ve been thinking about and somehow hadn’t manage to articulate. 

We were chatting about being settled versus the draw to new experiences.  I have to say I’m a sucker for a new experience (so long as it doesn’t involve bungee jumping), and novelty, fresh and short lived, is very attractive.  But I’ve been reflecting upon what this then costs, on how this renders things temporary and unstable. 

Our friend Mike had obviously done some thinking on this too, and managed to articulate his thinking much better than I could.  He contrasted the difference between ‘depth’ and ‘breadth’ in human experience.  A person of ‘deep’ experience will invest themselves fully and at length into what ever they feel called to do – or perhaps what they simply find themselves doing.  This long investment results, naturally, in a richness of knowledge and understanding beyond what might in the normal order of things be achieved.  This means, crudely, that they have a great deal of experience in a very narrow realm.  A person of ‘broad’ experience will instead have explored many areas, for example they may have had several careers or lived in many widely differing locations, but this will of course limit the amount of deep experience they might have – so they have a more ‘surface’ experience but across a much greater scope.

I’ve just read that back and I promise you Mike said it much better at the time!

This led me back to a train of thought I’d been on for a while.  What does it mean for my relationships with others?  We’ve got a small circle of really good friends, most of whom we’ve known now for many years, and we know that these are friends who we will grow old with as we walk through life and faith together.  Despite the fact that geography separates us from most of them, there seems to be a tacit understanding that these friendships are for keeps.  There is accountability, encouragement, shared joy and shared pain.  These have, with the passage of time, and the commitment that such relationships need, become friendships of depth.

Closer to home I look at the people who I walk alongside as fellow followers of Christ.  I am challenged to commit to relationships of depth there too.  To see those around me as people whom I should serve not just here and now, but (with the caveat of God calling me to something different) with commitment and an intention to serve and love for a lifetime. 

But the draw to new experience, and this year, to find a new challenge is still very strong, and finding the balance between the two is hard.  Can I have depth and breadth, I wonder?