Category Archives: Friendship
Sometimes I just don’t want to write.
My mind just wants to be numb.
My heart just doesn’t want to feel.
I don’t want to pour out the heartaches and wounds of this tired soul.
I’d rather sit alone in silence.
Hold it in.
Pretend that life is perfect—or at least just fine–in these four walls.
Just not feel or even blink at the chaos that unravels around me and then lands in my lap a tattered mess.
But who would I be kidding?
I need to write.
It frees me from the loneliness of this life.
This broken, shattered life.
It gives me hope.
And in the distance, I hear an echo.
“That is my life too.”
I find community.
I find others with wounds like mine.
Others who know that life is not perfect within the four walls of our homes.
That we are not perfect wives or mothers or daughters or sisters or friends.
Others who know the heartache of loss and love and loneliness.
And in that community, I find hope.
I find renewal.
I find peace in the unraveling chaos.
Because, in the midst of community, I find Christ.
He draws close and He is in the midst of it all.
The healer of wounds.
The one who knits us together when the unraveling begins.
The one who holds fast to us when the world has emptied us of all hope.
The one who gives hope to the hopeless.
I log on to Facebook. Something I thought would only be for my son and daughter. But I find friends there from grade school, high school, and college. We reconnect electronically. As we “friend” each other, we scroll through photos, posts, and the info page—education and work, philosophy (religious and political views), arts and entertainment, activities and interests, and so on. We look to see who we might connect with, and we find those things that make up our friends’ identities—or at least that part of their identity that Facebook has space to include.
Christian, without any qualifiers is missing from all but a few. Some Christian friends—and I—leave off our religious views entirely.
I wonder what it is about our identity in Christ that makes us choose how we express that identity in this particular electronic media, but I also think about how we respond to others who ask us about our religion. How do we express our religious viewpoint–our faith–to those who only see our “online” presence? Or, for that matter, to those who we first meet?
Kathleen Norris, in her book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith touches on our identity as Christians. She notes that she is reluctant to speak of herself as a “Christian” because she knows how deficient she is in practice. But, she is reluctant also because “so many of the people who make the most of their ‘Christianity’ in public represent a distorted version of the faith.” She adds that so many in America regard “Christian” as synonymous with “fundamentalist,” and that the media seems “bent on perpetuating” that error.
I agree with her and grapple with this issue. It is not that I don’t find my identity in Christ. I do. But, the negative views of “Christianity” that ooze from history, and through the media and some “Christian” public figures—well, let’s face it, the negative views are, sadly, well deserved. They even stir up anger and heartache in me—like the burning of the Koran recently that resulted in violence and death in the Middle East.
And so, when I first meet someone or publicize on a medium where people might “meet” me only electronically and not ever get to know me, I want to distance myself from the public view of “Christianity.” Rather than “Christianity” allowing me to connect with others, I fear it will create an unwarranted divide.
It isn’t just the media image of Christianity either. As Norris states, “I know how deficient I am in practice.” I, too, am a blemished and broken human. I am deficient without God’s grace and mercy. I am deficient without the loving God who sent his son to the cross to bear my sins.
So, in the context of twenty-first century America, and knowing that I am broken and blemished, publicizing—headlining—that I am a Christian—seems counter-productive. It is a roadblock for the unbeliever—or people of other faiths—to relationship with Christ-followers.
I don’t know how to redeem “Christianity” for Christ except through relationship with others. If “Christianity” is suspect and associated by some with hate, divisiveness, violence, or arrogance, I can’t redeem Christianity if using that word to identify who I am creates a barrier before I even have the chance to establish rapport.
And so, as I walk through holy week—knowing that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to die on the cross—I look to the cross for answers. The only answer that seems clear is finding my identity in Christ and inviting Christ to transform me so that I may love others fully. I know that love is the heart of Christian faith. And, that Christ suffered the cross because of God’s love for all of humanity.
In twenty-first century America, keeping a distance from the “C” word seems almost necessary. Instead of posting my identity on Facebook, I need to turn toward Christ and pursue my relationship with Him so that I may meet others with His love, as an image-bearer of God. To let God transform me so that He might use me to transform the hearts of others.
“Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” 1 John 3:18.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 12:5-8
Sometimes we fail to say things to our children when we are thinking of them. Sometimes, it is because we don’t have the courage. Other times it is because we don’t have the time or the opportunity. Or, sometimes, we don’t know how they will respond. I thought I would occasionally post letters to my children to inspire others to share their hearts with their children, too. This first letter is to my son who is now 21 years old and who, last night, had to make a difficult choice to sacrifice a friendship he has had since first grade in order to try to save that friend’s life.
My Dear Son,
You have grown into a young man—one any mother would be proud of. You know the meaning of friendship—of true friendship. The Greek call this philia –fondness, appreciation, and loyalty to those you hold in community.
Your passion for life and those you care about drive every part of you. I admire it and at the same time I see it as a cross you bear. Your friendships have been characterized by loyalty, availability, honesty, trust, listening, nurturing, and a sense of finding a kindred spirit. But they also have been characterized by conflict, sacrifice, forgiveness, grief, and disappointment.
The depth of your friendships, the love you have for others in your life also means that you have had—and will continue to have—a sense of responsibility for those you care about. I know that you have had to choose, on occasion, doing what is right over the relationship. It has meant not just calling out your friends but also standing beside them when they desperately needed a friend they could count on. It has meant seeking help from family and friends to save the life of a friend. It has meant agonizing over the choice and ultimately choosing love and life, knowing that someday your friend might turn back to you, and may even thank you—hoping that you will have restoration.
It has also meant grieving deeply at the loss of some of your closest friends—whether the loss was because of death, or distance, or doing what was right. I have grieved for you, as I can’t imagine at your age having endured the loss that you have already endured. I know you have sought to understand loss and that, in many respects, it has eluded you. But I know that you have faith that someday you will heal, even if small scars remain. That somehow loss and grief will shape you in a way that will remind you that loving others was worth the pain of loss.
So I pray that you will continue to love deeply and value friendship above other things, for it is part of the fabric of who you are. It has been imprinted on your soul as long as I can remember. And, while it has been a burden at times, it has shaped you into a man of integrity and given you great joy. The way that you love others in community beautifully reflects Christ.
As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument through which God reveals to each the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them.”
With love always,