Wednesday, 17 May 2017
Hungry for Friends
We’ve moved ten times. Each time my first prayer was for a friend.
Do you remember your first friend? How old were you? How did you become friends? Do you still keep in touch?
When our oldest daughter was three we had out of town guests over for dinner. They came with their three year old, Katrina. The girls were shy at the dinner table, pushing their food around and avoiding eye contact. We finally sent them off to play and told them we’d call when dessert was ready.
When I checked on them they were immersed in some kind of game. Heads bent over a doll house, hands full of “little people,” they were busy crafting their own dinner party. The shyness was gone. It seemed like they’d known each other forever. When the family finally went home, our daughter turned to us and hugged herself, squealing, “She likes me!”
I’m with her on that one. Finding a new friend is delightful. Why? Because a friend chooses to spend time with you. She isn’t obligated by family ties or work responsibilities. On the contrary, when she has some free time or wants some company, she thinks of you. One of the delights of friendship is that its voluntary. Freely chosen.
Not only that, friends are equals. That’s an important part of the equation. Your boss might be your friend outside of work, but on the job there’s a pecking order. That affects how you relate to each other there. She puts work on your desk, not vice versa. But friendship is level ground. That means there’s give and take on everything from coffee to counsel.
But probably the biggest delight–the one that leads to the discovery of a new friend–is that friends “get” each other. It’s more than a shared experience or a common interest, it’s the sense of finding a kindred spirit. No one said it better than CS Lewis in The Four Loves:
Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”
Being hungry for friends makes all kinds of sense. A true friend brings many delights into our lives.
But there’s drama in friendship, too. Lots of it. Misunderstandings. Failings of all kinds. We don’t just lose friends because we move. Psychological distance is the real problem, not geographical distance. Even talking about friendship seems to bring up a mixture of emotions in us:
- regrets–I blew it.
- longings–I wish I had a friend like that…
- self-doubt–what’s wrong with me?
- resentment–some friend she was!
I find myself tempted to two extremes when I’m experiencing friendship drama. Sometimes I become clingy. I try to make it right by calling, emailing, incessantly checking in and asking if everything’s OK. It goes beyond love to obsession. It is smothering. I might even call it idolatry.
The other extreme is to withdraw. I don’t need this. I might give up on that friend, or be more drastic and ditch the idea of friends altogether. The temptation to independence is strong in our individualistic culture, and I’ve personally felt its pull. Besides, I’m busy. I don’t have time for this foolishness.
Friends. Who needs them?
At this point I need to pull out another CS Lewis quote. For all his brilliance in writing about friendship, he had drama, too. He and JRR Tolkien were very close friends in their early days. But at one point Tolkien seems to have gotten upset with Lewis. Letters were exchanged, the distance widened. A new friend, Charles Williams, came along in Lewis’s life and that seemed to finish it. Lewis wrote to Tolkien:
I miss you very much
He didn’t even punctuate the sentence.
I’m comforted by Lewis’s struggle. It shows me that drama spares no one. It shows me that even brilliance isn’t the answer. It brings me to an end of trying to get it right. And it reminds me of the poignant pain of loss. The fact is–CS Lewis needed friends, and I do too.
The Friend I Need.
The good news is that the Bible has a lot to say about friends. Oh, yes, it has advice. The Book of Proverbs, which has the majority of references, tells us how to be a true friend. But even better, Proverbs sketches a picture of the friend we need, our True Friend.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
Are you hungry for a friend? God wants to feed you.
Come hungry for the conversation ahead…