Friendship Files: Friendship 101

YOUR HIGHLIGHT REEL

Take a moment and reminisce. Back across the contoured years of your life, recall the moments and memories that bring you the most joy. I don’t know you and may have never even met you, but I’ll bet that I can guess one of the common strands that tie many of these highlight moments together – the presence of friends.

Friends. Adorned in caps and gowns, they’re in that favorite old photo, making silly faces next to you at graduation. Or do you remember that camping trip when they talked with you about love and God and war until the sun rose? They invited you over for Thanksgiving dinner the year your wife died. When your favorite team finally won the championship, they celebrated with you. At the hundreds of mostly forgotten dinners together, you bonded and became family – almost without even noticing.

FRIENDSHIP’S ESSENTIAL PLACE

Friendship is foundational.

The essence and marrow of the gospel is how the Lord, through the shed blood of Jesus, reconciled us to Himself – making His enemies into friends. Christ Himself spoke of that great salvific act, “Greater love has no one than this – that he lay down his life for his friends.” A healthy union between a man and woman in marriage finds friendship as the bedrock of the relationship. A goal in parenting is raising someone to become a friend you’d be honored to have. Examine the cultures of vibrant businesses, churches, and neighborhoods – you’ll discover friendships at the foundation.

Friendship is that elemental human connection. It is basic. It is straightforward. It is essential. And it is… rare.

AN IGNORED NECCESSITY

Our culture deems friendship an optional auxiliary, a little add-on to life. Even within Christianity, it seems like more books have been written and sermons have been preached on nearly every other human relationship. Believers flock to materials on marriage, books on parenting, and blogs about being a better employee. But friendship, it seems, is largely forgotten.

But why? We’ve all deeply experienced the truth of Genesis – that it’s not good for us to be alone. We KNOW how deeply the pangs of isolation reverberate when we desperately need a friend, but there’s not one to be found.

So why don’t we give friendship the attention it deserves?

A LOST SIMPLICITY

It was my very first day of Kindergarten. In the midst of the nervousness and separation anxiety, something pretty remarkable happened. A wide-eyed and kind-hearted classmate walked up to me with a simple question. Though I had never met him prior to that day, he asked, “Do you wanna be my best friend?” For the next seven years, that’s exactly what we were (more on this in an upcoming post).

When we’re kids, friendship is simple. It is uncomplicated. And that just may be our problem. Could it be that our struggle with friendship is due to how automatic it was in childhood? Our parents arranged play dates for us. We were placed within classes of countless peers and given plenty of leisure and extracurricular opportunities with all of them. Apart from the silly and subversive social inhibitions that plague us later in life, we have encounters like the one I described from my first day of Kindergarten – we were given every opportunity to make friends, and we hadn’t yet learned to sabotage ourselves.

Coming of age involves learning to cope with the changing dynamics of relationships with parents, the opposite sex, superiors at work, and the individual responsibility that accompanies adulthood. With our gaze fixed on all of these factors, there’s a massive paradigm shift that occurs without our notice – friendship gets much more complex.

By the time we realize it, we hardly know how to regain what we’ve lost.

REGAINING FOCUS

I’m deeply passionate about friendship, and believe that it is possibly the most critical (and critically ignored) relationship in our culture and in the church. I’ve lived in urban and rural areas, attended large and small churches, among old and young people, with liberal and conservative political leanings, and there’s one constant – the desire for richer and deeper friendships.

Consider the biblical descriptions of Jesus. Think about His closest relationships. He wasn’t married. He didn’t have children. There’s not even much written about His parents and siblings. But did He ever have friends (for whom He laid down His life)!

In the coming series of posts, I have no illusions of breaking any new ground on this topic. But simply through stories of friends who have made permanent (and blessed) marks on my life, I hope to bring focus to an often forgotten essential – that foundational human connection of friendship.

Next time, you’ll hear the story of my best friend from Kindergarten.

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