Reflections on Friendship

Interesting how God juxtaposes different elements in one's life to guide and teach. I think he has done this with me to make me think more deeply about friendship. This has happened in a dream, my reading, and perhaps in my relationships.

A dream: last night I dreamed very vividly about a very special friend that I have not seen in about four years. He has been on my mind for several weeks and we have e-mailed, but not made the phone connection yet. I awoke this morning really wanting to talk to him. I don't usually put much stock in dreams - I figure they are more the result of too much pizza or the temperature in the room, than God's attempts to communicate with me. But I do think God is sovereign over dreams and that in his providence, they may sometimes serve a purpose - not to to give revelation or guidance, but perhaps (?) to heighten awareness and focus attention. Maybe that's why I had this dream. To heighten my awareness and focus my attention on friendship.

My reading: The two primary books I'm reading right now are Eugene Peterson's Leap Over a Wall: Earthly Spirituality for Everyday Christians, a series of twenty meditations based on the life of David. I'm reading two chapters every morning as one of the main staples of my spiritual diet on this vacation. The second book I'm working on is Chaim Potok's classic novel The Chosen. I read about 1/3 of it yesterday and will probably finish it by the end of the week. The Chosen is a gripping story about the friendship between two young Jewish teenagers in 1940's Brooklyn. Here is a blurb from Amazon:

In 1940s Brooklyn, New York, an accident throws Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders together. Despite their differences (Reuven is a Modern Orthodox Jew with an intellectual, Zionist father; Danny is the brilliant son and rightful heir to a Hasidic rebbe), the young men form a deep, if unlikely, friendship. Together they negotiate adolescence, family conflicts, the crisis of faith engendered when Holocaust stories begin to emerge in the U.S., loss, love, and the journey to adulthood. The intellectual and spiritual clashes between fathers, between each son and his own father, and between the two young men, provide a unique backdrop for this exploration of fathers, sons, faith, loyalty, and, ultimately, the power of love. (This is not a conventional children's book, although it will move any wise child age 12 or older, and often appears on summer reading lists for high school students.)
I have never read this before, and do not know how it will end. But it has been emotionally gripping so far, reminding me of how deeply friendships touch our hearts and form our lives.

Add this: today, one of the chapters I read in Peterson's Leap Over a Wall, was on the friendship between David and Jonathan. A few sentences really stretched out their hands and forcefully grabbed me:

"The greatest thing any person can do for another is to confirm the deepest thing in him, in her - to take the time and have the discernment to see what's most deeply there, most fully that person, and then confirm it by recognizing and encouraging it.

Each of us have contact with hundreds of people who never look beyond our surface appearance. We have dealings with hundreds of people who the moment they set eyes on us begin calculating what use we can be to them, what they can get out of us. We meet hundreds of people who take one look at us, make a snap judgment, and then slot us into a category so that they won't have to deal with us as persons. They treat us as something less than we are; and if we're in constant association with them, we become less." (Eugene H. Peterson, Leap Over a Wall, p. 55)
In another context, I might wish to qualify that statement, but I'll forego the critique and just lock into what I think is very true in what Peterson is saying: to be a friend is to learn to embrace someone as a person to be known and loved. Not as a commodity to be used. Not as potential to be tapped. Not as a resource. Not as a thing. Not as an object. But as a person.

This is profound and causes me to examine myself as a friend. Do I relate to my friends as persons? Do I understand them, know them? What would any given friend of mine say if asked, "Does Brian know you and love you for you who you are?"

Reflecting on friendship also provokes much gratitude in my heart for the very good and close friends that I have been blessed to have in different seasons of life. I think of two or three very close friends I had as a teenager. I think of a couple of long-term friendship with people that began ten or twelve years ago, but have really taken flight in the past couple of years. I think of new friendships that have developed over the past three years. I think of the extremely close friendships I share with my father and my two brothers and one of my cousins. I think of my dearest friend, my Holly. And I am grateful. I feel like a rich man, because friendships are abundant in my life.

This is also poignant to me because I know people who have difficulty developing friendships. I know people who are extremely lonely and have no one to talk to. I know people who feel like almost no one knows them for who they really are and I can see the pain the snap judgments and shallow interest of others has caused them. And I am sad for them.

I suppose I could end this "reflection" with a list of ways to develop friendships. A series of five or six "how to's." But somehow, that would feel artificial and contrived. Instead, I just want to slow down and really see people and listen to them. And my simple encouragement for you who read this is to do the same. Let us learn to be Jonathans to the Davids in our lives.


mwh said...

"...snap judgments and shallow interests..."

That's convicting.

Robert Campbell said...

"We meet hundreds of people who take one look at us, make a snap judgment, and then slot us into a category so that they won't have to deal with us as persons."

I know folks who live by the "Blink" principle for decision making, even when it comes to people. They believe that they first impression, quick decisions are accurate. I find this ugly and contrary to the value of humans in the image of God.

This is a good word. Thank you.

Sean Dietrich said...

I love Eugene Peterson!
I read the Message sometimes and think to myself: This guy really gets it!! The gospel is really as simple as he explains it!

I am a musician and I would be honored if you would check out my music. Its all free for download on my site. Anyway, I just thought that I would share.

"All my music is free."