Friendship is hard. Really hard. I’m talking about real friendship, not the kind where you float into a room laugh, smile, shake hands, talk about movies and books, and then leave. That’s just social convention. That’s being friendly. Friendship is something, I think, a lot of us don’t really have. Real friendship, at least the kind I believe we all long for, the kind God wants us to have is exhausting, challenging, and painful. Yet, it’s addicting, beautiful, fun, and sanctifying. True friendship requires a lot of sacrifices. It requires a sacrifice of the ego, of your own desires. Humility is essential to intimacy. Why?
Throughout the 29 years of my life on this earth, I can only count three, maybe four real friendships that I’ve ever had. Two I see every week, one lives half a world away, and the other had fallen apart long before I even realised there was anything wrong. There is a fifth. Each of these relationships has been really different, complex, fun, and exhausting in different ways. The two I see every week requires constant engagement, attention, communication, love, service, sacrifice and humility. The problem though is that I suck at all these things. Despite being bullied my whole life, I continuously put one down (under the guise of Aussie humour) to make me feel better about myself. The other (and my best friend) I almost have nothing in common with outside of Jesus. Often when we meet, I have to feign interest in what he likes because I’m afraid that if I don’t listen to him, he won’t listen to my more important stories and mind-blowing (sarcasm) thoughts on theology and the universe. This is the problem with the ego (at least with mine). It sees my friends as a commodity, something to be used to form an identity, to achieve validation and as things to serve me rather than image-bearing people to love and serve. Real intimacy and friendship are scary because if I don’t lay aside my sinful and broken desires for the sake of those around me, I will end up losing the very people that God uses to make me holy in the first place.
So, there are a few things I need to get my head around and maybe they’ll help you as well.
- I’m actually not that smart. My apparently amazing insights into all things spiritual are pretty lame. Even as I write this line, every part of me wants to delete it because I still think I’m pretty wise. I’m not. Stop it.
- Despite the prevailing cultural narrative, I’m not special. I’m incredibly average. My blogs aren’t going to change the world. God hasn’t called me to be an Avenger for the Gospel, just to earnestly love my friends and then even my enemies. If I can’t get the former right, what hope do I have for the latter?
- My friends are just as broken and messed up as I am, only in different ways. They need love, validation and real friendship as much as I do. They’re broken but still retain something of the image of God. This passage comes to mind when Paul says:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. – Romans 12:9-13
So here’s my point. Let’s be better friends. See friendships as a God-given gift to heal the broken, to sanctify the sinner and for the flourishing of our souls. Lay aside “self” and honour the image of God that is the human you’re having intimacy with. Let God use them to soften you, to transform you into the likeness of His Son. At the end of the day, just get over yourself and love others as you want to be loved, right?