Disclaimer: this is long but it was worth writing. Hopefully you’ll think it was worth reading.
With so many people posting articles about Facebook and the Internet making us lonely, I’ve been musing about friendships lately. To be perfectly honest, writing this hasn’t been easy. There have been positive parts (this first post) and portions that were really difficult to write (post #2…to come very, very soon). But I need to get it off my chest…and for someone who has struggled with friendships for most of my life, it feels like it’s finally time to work all this out and put it down as something concrete, rather than something that just keeps going ’round and ’round in my head when I can’t sleep at 2:45 in the morning. Plus, it’s way better than working on my master’s degree presentation and poster or grading papers.
Ever read C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves? If you haven’t, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can go off of Amazon‘s 4.6/5 star rating and buy it. He is an amazing writer and an inspiring man of God who is worthy of learning from. Some people think his ideas are outdated, but the Bible was written 2000 years ago and we still use that, right? (Okay, okay, I know the Bible’s teachings are a little different that the writings of C.S. Lewis, but you get the picture.)
The four types of love he discusses are affection, friendship, eros, and charity. But, obviously, I’m mulling over the second. I also thought a lot about Grace Driscoll’s post “What Is a Godly Friend?” in writing this (see part 2).
To get me started, I am going to reflect on a quote at a time from The Four Loves.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
So true. What fun would the world be without friends? And you really don’t need friends to survive; as a high school biology teacher, I teach the fact of this every time I do a unit on ecology! The other 3 loves – affection, eros, and charity – are essential for survival. Why? We need: affection, so that mothers don’t kill their crying babies; eros, so that sexual reproduction can create the necessary number of offspring to replace dying individuals; and charity, so that when some fall on tough times others can build them up. All of this for the survival of the species. I know, I know…sounds real science-y, but it’s true: a society will not endure if its individuals don’t have baby-making sex, kill their babies, and don’t take care of one another (sounds eerily familiar…but that is a totally unrelated yet very important topic for another day).
Back to friendship…
“The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”
How many people have you been/are you friends with that seemed totally out of the blue? If you think back, you’ll probably be able to find that one thing that you connected over. A lot of my relationships over the years have risen out of sports. That’s not to say that I am best friends with every person I’ve ever been on a team with, but after you spend a lot of time with someone training really hard for an athletic performance, you also learn about the other things they like to do. The sport introduced you to one another, but that next level of “You like country music too?” takes you past the teammate level to the friendship level (please note, I am friends with people who dislike country as well…actually, I am married to one such crazy person).
“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.”
You definitely only see one side of a person if you always hang out with them one-on-one. Yes, that’s really fun and you get to have really deep conversations, but you miss an entirely different part of a person if you are never get to see the other side(s) of them. For instance, I love hanging out with my wing[wo]man, Mandy, but it just ups the fun when Kristin hangs out with us too. I am still myself when I am with them just the two of us (and them, vice versa) but we bring out multiple sides of each other when we are all three together.
“As Friendship strengthens, it will do this even when my Friends are far away.”
This could not be further from the truth! I think you find out who your real friends are when you are no longer at the same school, on the same team, in the same city, etc. Val and I played basketball for one year together at SPU (she was a senior when I was a freshman) and we weren’t exactly close. For some reason (see the next quote and comment), we became friends and have become increasingly closer friends over the past 4 years.
“But in Friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends ‘You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.'”
Wow. The God who created the universe from nothing, knows every heart that has every beat and ever will, and makes nations rise and fall is concerned with who we are friends with! He put us in just the right circumstances to come across the people He will use to refine us (or use us to refine them…again, next post…are you intrigued yet?) as we journey through this life. As much as DNA replication takes my breath away (ask me to explain it to you sometime if you don’t believe me), this divine providence in something as meaningless as our friendships (at least compared to creating the universe!) definitely makes me stand in awe of our incredible God. If I hadn’t decided to row my last year and a half of college (in the face of more than a few obstacles) and if Kay hadn’t turned out for the team that year, we probably would have never met. Fast forward 4 years: I wouldn’t have had a partner in crime to help me keep the shedding-tons-of-fur-cuz-its-finally-warm-out pets out of the nursery as we painted this weekend (P.S. It turned out SOOO well…dark gray walls with light gray and yellow curtains with a white floor/ceiling…can’t wait to get to sewing to coordinate everything else and throw in some teal!).
“At home, besides being Peter or Jane, we also bear a general character; husband or wife, brother or sister, chief, colleague or subordinate. Not among Friends. It is an affair of disentangled, or stripped, minds. Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.”
I don’t get to be a wife, sister, athlete, high school teacher, etc in a friendship. I am just me. Perhaps this is why friendships can be so satisfying or so heart-wrenching. You’re either totally loved and appreciated for who you are or you feel cast off, used, taken advantage of…and it wasn’t because of a part of your identity, it was all of it.
“As Emerson said, Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth? – Or at least, “Do you care about the same truth?” The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer.”
Guess what…you can be friends with people who you don’t agree with on a very fundamental level. I can think of a few folks I have been very close with over the years who weren’t Christians (implying a certain set of core beliefs) or if they were, had incredibly different views on facets of Christianity and were unwilling to waver. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fulfilling friendship with that person. What it does mean, however, is that you have to be very careful how you disagree and how much you will harass or belittle them so as to get them to come over to your way of thinking (again, more on that below).
“Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah VI, 3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.”
We each have a unique view on God because no person is equally alike another. Saturday morning special material, I know, but for every thought I have on God, there is someone out there who is willing to offer a slightly different view even if they ultimately agree. How much more beautiful does that make our experience of life, of God Himself?
That’s enough for today I think. Plus, that was the easy part. Come back for the follow-up if you really want to know what I’ve been wrestling about regarding friendship. Hopefully I’ll avoid enough real work in the next few days to get it polished up in a timely fashion.