I once saw a cartoon that showed a prototypical family gathered around the table for dinner. Dad is sitting at one end of the table, Mom at the other, and the kids along the sides. Dad is saying with a somber expression, “Well, due to unexpected market pressures, we’re going to have to let one of you go.”

You’ve probably heard of someone who got offered the “opportunity” to “reapply” for his own position. I know of one case where a staff of several was informed that all of their jobs were going to be replaced with one position. They were invited, of course, to apply for that position. That sounds harsh, but the thing is…somebody had to go.

I’ve written about friendship before, and about the uniquely Miller approach to friendship. “People are important” was our mantra at one point, and it helped us to emphasize the building of meaningful friendships with those around us. It worked! We have formed a number of great friendships with wonderful people over the past several years.

Then we moved to Rhode Island. I reconnected with old friends. We’ve made new friends. We’ve gotten involved in ministry and service in ways we never did in Tulsa (it was our first year of marriage; go easy!). We knew we wouldn’t be able to keep up with our college friends the way we could when we all lived within two miles of the Super Wal-Mart…and that (necessary?) cooling down of relationships due to distance posed a problem. Yes, this relationship adjustment process needed to be managed. Surprise, surprise, we decided to approach this conundrum Matthew-style: with business-like efficiency.

We made a list, out loud in our van as we drove cross-country, of the friendships we wanted to maintain. My list was unrealistically long, and we winnowed it down. We resolved to stay in touch with them through in-person visits, perpetual phone calls and/or in-depth e-mails. Carving out a subset of our “keeper” friends left us with another subset: those whom, for any number of reasons, we decided to sort of passively de-friend.

It was probably a bad idea. In any event, it didn’t work. In a notable example, one friendship just wouldn’t die. Oh, I tried! I ignored voice mails. I left e-mails to fester in the Inbox. Some people can’t take a hint!

Wow, just reading that, it sounds so heartless. Blurgh. We had good intentions; one simply can not be best friends with everyone. It’s like if you were the only landscaper in all of Central Park, and you had to mow the whole thing with only a dull push mower. Every week. You’d never keep up! Some area would always get neglected.

I just don’t think I have the time to maintain fairway friends. Fairway grass gets more human attention than probably any other type of grass, even baseball infield grass. I think those long-distance friends with whom I can have the most facile relationship are those who are cool with saguaro-style friendship: we don’t see or hear from each other terribly often, but boy, when we do, we’re all there. We care about each other, pray for and think about each other on occasion, and always enjoy those two or three times a year when we can connect and get in some concerted catching-up time.

I want to apologize to any of you to whom I gave the impression that I could maintain a fairway friendship. I know it now: I can not. I’m sorry for the unanswered calls. I’m sorry for the e-mails lost in the Inbox Black Hole. I am sorry I lack the self-control to manage my time correctly so I COULD talk to you on the phone or write you a long response.

If you are my friend, I want you to know that I genuinely care about you. If you and I are / were tight, it’s most likely because you did something memorably awesome, where you shared something deep when others would have stayed shallow, or where you were compassionate to me when I would have been heartless. Thank you for that. Thank you for being understanding of our communication foibles and our psychotic schedules.

Know that I desire to be a fairway friend to every single one of you. Please also know that, barring some huge lifestyle, personality, and maturity changes, a long-distance friendship with me will only ever mean a place in the desert of my fraternal affections.