Monday, April 11, 2011

For the Love of Friends (and for the friends I love!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my friends these days.  God has blessed me with lifelong friends who ‘knew me when’ and with new friends who have walked the past few crazy years with me.  Last week I re-read The Prodigal God by Tim Keller.**  In it Keller quotes a C.S. Lewis essay entitled "Friendship" in The Four Loves about the death of his friend, Charles Williams, who was one of The Inklings (along with Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein).

“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 the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.  Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Charles joke.  Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald… In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God.  For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest.  That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to one another (Isaiah 6:3).  The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.”

It reminds me of how the apostle Paul says we are all part of the one Body of Christ.  It’s not just that it’s a nice thing for us all to work together.  It’s really and truly like how our body works.  The body doesn’t have the option to have the heart involved or not.  It’s not a ‘nice thing’ if the lungs expand with air and then contract, expelling the carbon dioxide.  In the same way, brothers and sisters in Christ are not a neat ‘perk’ to my faith.  Instead, they are as vital to it as blood and bones and eyes. 

Without the insight, input, challenge and encouragement of my friends, my faith would be weaker, thinner.  I’m so thankful others have been so gracious with me, sharing their wisdom and understanding.  They help me to see aspects of God’s being which I am unable to see from my distinctly ‘Kim’ perspective.  I need others to expand my view of God by sharing what they see of Him from where they stand.  To share how God has revealed Himself to them, through His Holy Spirit, through His Word.  How Jesus has drawn near to them in the circumstances of their lives. 

And, the really amazing thing is, I am vital to others, too!  I need to share my experiences and encounters as well, to help expand their sight.  Of course, I’m a sinful, fallible human who also carries my own prejudices, hurts and blind spots.  I’ve written before about being ‘wounded healers’.  That is still the case.  We are all broken, with sharp, jagged edges, and so we tend to jab and scrape each other when we get close.  The answer, however, is not to withdraw.  Doing so simply makes us even more wounded. 

As I think about my amazing and eclectic group of friends, I rejoice in God’s incredible provision for us.  We are not left as orphans.  We have the Holy Spirit.  And, we have each other.  Limping, bleeding, messy though we are, we can still point each other to Him.  Together, our small, limited vision of God can be expanded, encompassing more and more of Him.  

And, with the Seraphim, we will have all eternity to discover new things about our Holy, Almighty God together.  Imagine the things we will be able to learn about God through hearing firsthand from an Israelite at the Red Sea, or a young girl on a tiny ship crossing the Atlantic, or a husband in a prison in North Korea, or a mother, standing to the side of a hill, watching her Son die a brutal death. 

Thank you, Father, for the gift of friends.  Forgive me when I am too selfish, too grouchy, too broken, to share what You are teaching me.  Thank you that you give us each other.  Thank you for your Son.

**I highly recommend The Prodigal God.  The title refers to the fact that the father in the parable, and our Heavenly Father, loves us with an extravagant love.  It also talks about how there are two lost sons, not just one.  The younger, who leaves, but also the older, who stays and plays by the rules, but is filled with anger and resentment.  My book’s margins are full of ‘Ouch’ and ‘Amen’!

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