When we learn to live in friendship, we learn to be ourselves. We may dream with our friends, or fight, or play cards, or all three - that is not the point. True friendship is built on an attitude, not an activity. Specifically, true friendship exists when we reveal - when we are the real us with another person.
Friendship is the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weight thoughts nor measure words, but pouring all right out just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful friendly hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of comfort, blow the rest away.*
When we take that step and accept the risk of vulnerability, it opens the way to some amazing relational adventures - a whole new world to explore and experience. We feel the way a chick does when it pecks out of its shell - exhausted, yes, but also exhilarated. Our friends become valuable, even indispensable, as fellow explorers - measuring and mapping this dramatic landscape of life.
To every man alive, one must hope, it has in some manner happened that he has talked with his more fascinating friends round a table on some night when all the numerous personalities unfolded themselves like great tropical flowers. All fell into their parts as in some delightful impromptu play. Every man was more himself than he had ever been in this vale of tears. Every man was a beautiful caricature of himself.**
I am grateful to have experienced this on several occasions, and it is indeed beautiful (or rather transcendent, to use a more daring word). There are few pleasures that are as rich and wholesome as the pure interaction of personality, and deep friendships offer an ideal platform for this holy communion.
But alas, it does not last. Life rolls along on great blind, unfeeling wheels, time and circumstance, and friends find themselves scattered and disconnected, groping for that vital contact that seemed so permanent, so sure, so invincible. Relationships cannot be freeze-dried, they will grow and change and die - like the seasons and the patterns of the stars.
And really, this is best. If relationships did not grow and change and die, they would not be alive. When they do, we know they are, and even in separation and loss there are memories that sparkle and glow. Do not spoil the treasures of yesterday by fretting about the trials of today.
Proverbs 18:24 says that he who has friends must be friendly. This may seem self-evident, but I am astounded at how often I go around looking for friends instead of looking for people I can be a friend to. True friendships may often surpass means and serve as ends, but pursuing them as ends will only result in frustration. As C. S. Lewis says, "That is why those pathetic people who simply 'want friends' can never make any. The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Friendship must be about something... those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers."
Let's keep our eyes on the goal, and thank God for the friends He gives us to share the journey with.
*Arab Proverb, quoted in H. L. Roush, Jesus Loves Me, (Roush, 1978), 56
**G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, (Wordsworth, 2007), 45
Image courtesy of animaltalk.us
Image courtesy of animaltalk.us