Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why Friendship?

I've been wanting to do this post for a while but just haven't gotten up the gumption. I'm under no illusion that people actual read these long, thoughtful blogs...they'd rather have the pics and quick updates but I mostly do them for me. I want to re-confirm what is tossing in my brain and put it on paper. Blogs are easier because you can just type!

My husband and I are so different when it comes to the need for friendship and its purpose.

He...He doesn't feel the need for many friendships. I know this is partly Biblical. Friendship in its intended purpose by God is to be entered into carefully. Matt puts alot into our relationship and the unique friendship that we have as husband and wife and it's very valuable to him. It's really enough for him, he would say. He's been hurt by friendship and he's very guarded about whom he chooses. I respect this.

Myself, on the other hand...friendship is very important. For a long time it was too important- there was no balance in it. I think at some point in my life it became a sign of personal value for me. The more friends, the more worth. I know differently now and I'm thankful that God has grown me to a mature understanding of what gives me purpose. I have hurt friends and that makes me very careful about the kind of friend I am now.

Moving here to the South was really great in many ways and yet unexpectedly difficult in others. This is a college town so people here are friends in a rare way that is developed when you school and live together. There are small groups here and there and I watch as a newbie how they relate to each other in such a familiar fashion. How they are reliable when heartache comes...how there's always a long ago memory to share and laugh about. I feel saddened sometimes at the collage of pictures they have together not because I begrudge what they have but because it is a reminder of something that I have lost.

You see, I used to have my own "group". Oh, there's been a few groups along the way but only one that has been there for years. That seems missing now. I love my friend, Steph because she is what I like to call the "eternal friend optimist". She believes that true friendship will always come back around in time.

It's not that I don't believe this but I have learned that sometimes friends need to disband for the greater good. Sometimes the pain is just too deep and even more, while forgivable...simply not fixable here on earth. I know that blows the whole high school theory that people are "friends forever". It wouldn't be the first hope blown to smithereens by the jolt into adulthood, right?

So, in the wake of the heartache that friendship can so often bring, I find myself asking the question, "Why friendship?" Why don't I just call the whole thing off like my husband and save myself all the trouble? Why put yourself out there on the grounds that can so easily swallow you up? Is it worth what it may cost you?

I believe the answer is in the chaos.

"It's not about you."

It's ironic because the very "friend scrooge" himself (My Husband) is the one that introduced me to a beautiful definition of the purpose of friendship by C.S. Lewis.

Lewis wrote a book called "The Four Loves". As Matt would put it, "Lewis had the ability to look into a situation and not just pull out a truth but pull out THE truth." He's so right.

Lewis was describing a friendship circle that he was involved in. He loved these men so much. Sadly, he lost one of them to death. He recalls his dismay as he realized that what he expected to happen with the loss of one of them...which was to actually become even closer to the others..he found the opposite to be true. Read his account here:

One of his friends, Charles, died.

“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 any person completely into activity. I want other lights than my own to show off the facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Charles joke.

Far from having him to myself now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. In this, friendship exhibits a glorious resemblance to heaven itself with the very multitude of the blessed, which no man can number, increase the fruition each has of God. For every soul in heaven seeing Him in her own way communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That is why the seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to one another.”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

He then went on to give an actual description of what the purpose of friendship is for. I WAS AMAZED AT THIS...Here's a small portion:

Friendship (philia, φιλια) is a strong bond existing between people who share a common interest or activity. Lewis explicitly says that his definition of friendship is narrower than mere companionship: friendship in his sense only exists if there is something for the friendship to be "about".

It is the least natural of loves, states Lewis; i.e., it is not biologically necessary to progeny like either affection (e.g., rearing a child), eros (e.g., creating a child), or charity (e.g., providing for a child). It has the least association with impulse or emotion.

In spite of these characteristics, it was the belief of the ancients (Lewis himself, too) that it was the most admirable of loves because it looked not at the beloved (like eros), but it looked towards that "about"--that thing because of which the relationship was formed.

This freed the participants in this friendship from self-consciousness. Because the more they were looking towards something beyond or above themselves, the more those who were looking towards that thing with them were welcomed with the same sincerity, which freed the relationship from jealousy.

And although the love may not be biologically necessary, it has, argued Lewis, civilization value. The thing beyond or above themselves may be of monumental importance to society. But without the benefit of friendship to blunt the loneliness of "being the only person who sees this", or the idea that two heads are better than one, many advances in society may never have been embarked upon.

Friendship is God-given to be "about" Him.

He gives it to us so that we are not the only eye-witnesses of His glory and majesty. I will see Him in ways that no one else will and you will enjoy that likewise. Through my husband's eyes and because of his life experiences, I will be able to view God in a light that I may not have visualized on my own. When focused on and centered around our God, friendship can be such a benefit to our lives..such an encouragment. An unusual treasure.

So, why does friendship go wrong?

Because we so often make it "about" a person or ourselves. Or, when what we are individually "about" doesn't match up.

We need each other. We are not islands to ourselves. We must reevaluate the relationships in our lives and what they are "about". If it is as God intends then there will be an open freedom to include anyone without jealousy or self-preservation. There is a safety in people who are about the things of God. We should welcome them into our lives.

Thankfully, God has answered my friendship question. I'm so happy to find that it IS important! No more beating myself up for desiring it but more than that, I want to be a person that is known to be sincerely "about" God. Making Him my ambition will additionally prepare me to be the friend that is needed to those around me.

It may not be the most popular Facebook...with a view of vacations and timeless memories. It's bigger than that. It's my own distinctive glimpse of God offered to someone who needs it.

That is friendship.


jillybean said...

Charity, You are writing some really profound things and I am enjoying & being convicted while reading them. Thank you for taking the time to pour out your heart and allowing others to learn from what you are experiencing in Christ. There's so much more I could say, but i'll just leave it at that. Thanks!

Tiffany said...

As always you are pointing me in the right direction. Thanks for your friendship,Charity, it truly means so much to me. We HAVE to plan to get together soon, I'm having Charity and Sarah withdrawals!

Sandy said...

I happen to like your long, eloquent posts..

Anonymous said...

You are SO smart, Charity. I found this blog to be very helpful.

You are my secret best friend!