“The Year of Friendship: With God, Others and Self” – part 6
Why is it that some of us have many life-giving friendships and others have very few? Perhaps we live in a place where it’s unsafe to foster friendship, as some would attest who live in very hostile environments. For others, it’s a preference that fits best in the context of their family and community, and having fewer friendships has never been an issue. For many, it’s a particular choice…some of us are simply more social and enjoy the company of many acquaintances, and others prefer a more solitary life or one where there are few others who surround them.
But, many times there exists in the human heart a longing for friendship, an ache deep within. And, that desire has been blocked or hindered for one reason or another. Over time the desire gets squashed or sacrificed by more than one hindrance to the creation and sustenance of solid friendships…with God, others, and even within us.
What are the possible opponents of friendship that exist in our world today?
1. Lack of time. On the surface, the most prevalent reason friendships don’t exist is our lack of time. How many occasions have you heard others or yourself saying, “I’m just too busy”? Or, when given the opportunity to be with others, the schedule you have doesn’t allow for the development of the friendship. This certainly happens in our friendship with God…too busy to pray, read the Word, or sit quietly and reflect on our lives. It also happens with our friendships…too busy to meet for coffee or an extended day or evening together. What about your life needs to be tamed in order to live in a more unhurried, uncluttered, unhindered fashion for the sake of your own friendships?
2. Incessant demands. The greatest contributors to busyness are the multiple priorities we are seeking to balance. We want it all: family, work, possessions, mobility, church, community, etc. and we work hard to make it all fit. Until we hit a wall and realize we can’t have everything and everyone at the same level. We need to learn instead how best to prioritize our commitments and deal honestly with the tension they create. This takes concerted effort to pray into each area of our lives and discern with others in our orbit of influence how best to make space for friendship. What is God inviting you to fully release or hold more loosely in order to de-stress your life for the sake of building healthy friendships?
3. Self-referencing. One of the most delicate issues of our day is the constant “me focus” we encounter with others. Oftentimes in our relationships we are listening to the stories of others without reciprocal interest in our own. It seems that we live in a day when each person we encounter is readying himself or herself for personal presentation. And it comes out almost immediately in an “all about me” attitude. Consider the conversations you’ve had with others in the past 24-48 hours and recount the times when an interest in you was expressed without comment, comparison, or contrast. Reflect for a moment on how well you’ve been listened to in the past day or two. Those who did the best in the listening quotient are most likely your most treasured friends. Those who made sure they one-upped you are most likely simply acquaintances by name and not the kind of healthy friends you need the most. What did you contribute to one or two such conversations that fed your own need to self-reference and when were you content to simply listen?
4. Utilitarian relationships. Another reason we don’t have quality relationships with others is that many times we are looking for function over friendship. All of us have relationships that have more purpose and objective attached to them rather than simply a desire for loving presence. Perhaps you are looking for a new job and a particular relationship will increase your network. Or, you are in need of status and being seen with a certain person will heighten that need. Or, you may be working the angles toward financial gain or community acclaim and that person is just the one to help you achieve the goal. Frankly, we all have such relationships, but we all must be careful not to surround ourselves with them exclusively. What is God inviting you to consider regarding both the striving for functional relationships to achieve a particular end, and the longing for friendships based more securely in unconditional love?
5. Loneliness and insecurity. The enemy of our souls hates healthy relationships. And, will do anything possible to discourage you from their pursuit. He will leap on your loneliness by whispering words into your ears like, “No one would ever want to be my friend.” Or, he will tug at your insecurity, “I’m not good enough to be their friend.” Or, worse yet, he will jab you with increased fears “I don’t belong” and expanded anxieties “I can’t be present.” Whatever it is about your loneliness and insecurity can only be conquered by the ever-present, all-knowing, unconditional love of God. Friendship with God is what deepens friendship with others and richer friendship with oneself. God knows every lonely and insecure part of you and longs to fill those voids with his presence, his power, and his peace. What can you offer to God today that will liberate your soul and enhance your walk with your friends?
Even though many challenges to friendship exist, we can choose to become spiritually healthy friends with God, others, and even within ourselves. May today be one where you pursue vitality in your friendships and heartily embrace a new way of living, loving and listening despite the challenges that thwart your pursuit.
Behold Jesus, the One who calls you his beloved friend. Believe the priority of loving friendship for all of life. Belong to the community of friends of Jesus who delight in bearing fruit that lasts. Become renewed by the gifts of friendship received and offered in Jesus’ name.