Photo by Joe Grant © 2015
I no longer call you slaves, because slaves do not know their master’s business; I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything…
How has friendship shaped, broken, and mended you?
We are not natural solitaries.
We are gatherers,
the most relational of all mammals.
From first touch to last breath,
we reach for connection,
our lifelong longings knit into belonging.
In the vicinity of relationship—
family, friend, neighborhood, tribe—
we come to know who we are and how to be human.
For we are born
missing a piece,
never whole (or holy) till we are part of.
Enticed by intimacy,
we defy difference and distance
in order to be bonded.
More than our abilities and choices,
beyond our actions or omissions,
it is our friendships that most clearly define us.
Friendship, that sound vessel
which carries us over oceans of ideology and culture,
keeps us together through the storms of life.
You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.
In a hyper-individualized world,
notions of friend, community, connection
have become plastic.
The twin burdens
of commitment and co-responsibility
have been lightened,
and “like” usurps “love”.
The finger taps which let us
share pictures and messages,
remain a shallow substitute for really being in touch.
In times like these
there may be no more endangered species
than the true and lasting friend.
Friends live in the shelter of one another.
The real virtue and practice
of friendship involves being in touch:
walking, watching, waiting, wondering, weeping… together.
Such befriending is a spiritual discipline
that requires cultivation,
a lifetime of tending and mending.
For friends must cover the cost of caring
if relationships are to ripen,
and bring sweetness to life.
I acknowledge there is no sweetness
that doesn’t leave a stain,
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet.
From club to collective, from committee to community,
from solidarity to friendship,
this is our pathway to the beloved circle.
Real friendship rides
the relentless tides of time,
that shift the sands of shared memory.
Only by keeping in touch
can friends take their bearings,
lovingly looking upon life together.
The sense of ourselves delivered by friendship is unparalleled.
It is absolutely the right thing for us struggling human beings.
If Eucharist is community’s culmination,
bread and wine of magnanimity—
one body blessed and broken,
then friendship is its distillation,
eighth sacrament dripping golden unanimity—
one soul shared by many.
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
Lasting friendship, forged in trust,
is a virtue begging attention, demanding depth,
and transfiguring the substance of life.
As ever-rising waves of woe
break upon this world we love,
the firelight of friendship can help us banish despair.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
What might you lay down
for the sake
of such lasting love?
May you this day find your way
to touch those friendships, fine and few,
that have shaped and made you, you.
(For the sake of your soul,
the health of our family, and the love of our common home,
get in touch with a good friend today!)
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