Today I got a phone call from the police. A friend of mine had been listed as missing – did I know anything? Two weeks ago, I had sat in his loungeroom-come-bedroom listening to his news that he would be moving away. Moving to a place a couple of hours drive away. “How long til you move?” “Oh, could be any day.” It was: 2 days later I got a call from the nurse at the facility he’d gone to, a much better place for him to be than in a 1 bedroom flat in Long Gully. He’d moved so quickly he hadn’t time to let his family know, hence the missing report.

Even though I know he is in improved circumstances, I feel a wave of frustration rise and fall. What is the use of building relationships when they are constantly eroded by transience? I have, many years ago, resolved that long-term relationships were necessary to unveil the reign of God, whether among the poor or whoever. I had decided that speaking out the good news needed to happen on the platform of trust and respect.

But it’s a lonely stance. Often, those we relate to want to move on to something else quickly. This is the case whether we are among the poor who want to rapidly escape, or among the general population for whom the next best thing can’t arrive too soon.

How do we deal with transience, when our theology inspires us to grounded lives and longevity?

Here’s a couple of ideas:
(1) We rid ourselves of any heroism: our desire to be the ‘key’ people in others’ transformation can cripple us when we no longer have the opportunity to be that ‘significant’ person.

(2) We re-member ourselves: “re-membering” is recalling the fact that we are members of a body, a movement, a people that is far-spread. We, as individuals, are not it. That should give us some hope in the face of transience. As the biblical saying goes: some sow, others reap, and we enter into each others’ labour. When we can no longer be a part of a person’s life, someone else will take up the labour.

(3) We recall the Trinity: relational mission struggles with the tension of ends and means. Is the relationship for the purpose of more effective evangelism, or so that the person will have a better life? Or is it simply for the sake of the relationship? I don’t think there is an answer to this one, but in the face of transience we need to remember the Trinity; the Godhead in which relationship is essential to the character of God.