Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Catch and Release

I’m reading a great book by Lynn Vincent, titled The Same Kind of Different as Me, a true story about the relationship between a homeless man and a wealthy art dealer. The other night I paused over a scene where Denver, the homeless man, responds to art dealer Ron’s desire for friendship.

Denver, who grew up in extreme poverty, tells Ron about a strange method of fishing that he heard about called catch and release. Instead of catching fish for food, as he has always done, some fish for the sheer fun of it, reeling in large fish only to release them back into the water.

This sport clearly disturbs Denver. He tells Ron (and I’m paraphrasing), “If you want a friend that you can play catch and release with then I’m not interested in being your friend.” As Ron is recovering from the shock Denver adds, “But if you’re looking for a real friend then I’ll be one forever.”

As I reread the scene I couldn’t help thinking about the times when it seemed like a friend caught me only to toss me back into the stream. On the other hand, I’m sure there are times when others have felt released by me. I moved on to the next chapter, in complete agreement with Denver—that I don’t have much interest in catch-and-release friendships. I don’t want to be the one used for fun only to be thrown back wounded and I definitely don’t want to leave another soul feeling hooked and tossed.

Of course I know that God brings friends in and out of our lives. It’s rare to have a friend for life. And if we kept every friend for life we’d never have time to deepen any of those relationships, let alone work, study, or make our beds. So what’s the difference between a friendship that God phases in and out, and a catch-and-release friendship? How can we tell if we’re playing catch and release? To be perfectly blunt, I think we know when a friendship is fading naturally or if one friend is tossing the other. Face it, we know when we’re being dumped AND when we’re doing the dumping.

Sadly, we can’t prevent others from hurting us. We can, however, work on our end of the problem.

We can do this by:

Taking friendships slowly, giving them time to grow . . . or not grow

Resisting the temptation to form friendships based on need, pity, or what a person can do for us

Discussing hurts or disagreements right away instead of avoiding a person’s calls and letting frustration fester

Knowing when to let a hurt or disagreement go

Having fun together instead of constantly unloading on each other (or worse yet, one friend constantly unloading on the other)

Forming relationships with people that you honestly enjoy being around

Learning to recognize when someone might be using us

Praying for our friends

Learning from past hurts

Ask God to heal any wounds inflicted by catch-and-release friendships—both those inflicted on you and hurts you’ve inflicted on others. What have you learned from painful games of catch and release?

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