Friendship as a Spiritual Discipline

April 2015 183

Here is a valued friend. Caryn Dalton.

Facebook: How many friends do you have? All this talk of friends, and is it very friendly? Or is it just a place to hide behind, to see people you know, watching their activates. Do we actually make friends?

Moving away from the virtual reality to everyday interaction with people in your sphere of influence.

People are friendly but not my friends, they are friendly acquaintances. Friendships have to go beyond friendliness to a place of making effort; and this has to be a mutual effort of both parties. This takes action and relationship forming, and a desire to want to be friends. This begins with a person knowing who you are, and you knowing who they are, and not just a superficial façade.

Friends are sharing, caring, supporting, encouraging, counseling, and have actually gotten to know your name, and generally help you to have fun, and laugh. Also give the sense of being cared for and a feeling of being valued. We as human beings do need to be with people, who are loyal friends. Who know you with all your faults, gone through the struggles, and still call you friend.

Then there is being connected spiritually, this takes friendship to another level, your spiritual friendships these can help you in your spiritual quest and journey to find you place in life. This is aided when we overcome self-sufficiency and enter interdependency, we need each other, and we need friendship. This teaches us, and helps us to listen to others. What we hear as we help our friends, tends to have an echo effect, it echoes back to us, showing our areas of blindness. This can also be the grace of God, the delayed process of conversion and change, only highlighted through our deep connection and vulnerability, with friends.

This transformation and restoration work comes to fruition as a result of connection with others and as you pursue God and your God given purpose and role. These moments of support are found in a lot of cases through friends, and the people who we associate with.

I was reading a book this week and this line struck me. Francis of Assisi is remembered to have told the brothers that were caring for him in his illness, “The Lord has shown me what was mine to do, may He show you what is yours to do.” Francis had friends who cared for him in his time of need, will we? St. Francis even in his sickness had a heart that his friends would find their vocation, the what is mine to be done for the Lord.

As wonderful as friendships are this is one of the most difficult areas for me. I find small talk difficult, but it is the initiation ceremony to pave the way to make friendships. Then there is the leap of faith. How to take friendships beyond the superficial acquaintance stage, being aware of the green light to go, what is the signal that tells you to befriend a person? It is being aware or discerning, and open to the gift God gives with the connections we encounter.

Then are we even aware, do we see where friendships are blooming? For the growing of friendship, there has to be a willingness to get to know people, you to know them, and they to know you? It takes time and effort, time which we don’t have a lot of these days, and endurance, sticking with the process and making the effort! It is worth it, I have to convince myself!

A number of years ago a friend gave me a cassette, demonstrating that this was a few years ago, when leaving my home town to go to college. I was losing a friend or the circumstances and availability of the friend was changing. But our friendship continued, and continues still to this day, the words of the song are poignant for me.

Michael W. Smith – Friends Are Friends Forever

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
Can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter in your life is through

But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end

Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

With the faith and love God’s given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you’ll live in
Is the strength that now you show

But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’ve gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end

Though it’s hard to let you go
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long
To live as friends

– 0 – – o – – 0 –

Making friends is a spiritual practice.

What kind of friend are you to God and others?

Do you cut yourself of from others?

Who do you talk to about your spiritual life?

Do you have a friend to turn to, in a time of crisis?

We can never be perfect as a friend. We have limitations and flaws. List your current limitations (physical, time, emotional, etc.).

Do you want a spiritual friend enough to rearrange your life to have one?

“Spiritual friendship is not an easy path. It winds through the rigors of giving and receiving love to the very end. It lays down convenience and dies to self for the sake of the friend.” Pg. 153.

The quote and some of the questions taken from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook By Adele Ahlberg Calhoun.

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