“We want friends, all of us do, and not just any friends. We want relationships in which we know and are known at the deepest level. We want friendships that point us to grace and truth.
Curiously, however, we seem to be standing beside one another, holding identical longings yet resolutely believing we’re alone in them. But the truth is we aren’t actually wandering along and aimless in a desert; we’re practically tripping over each other as we grasp at our ideal dreams for friendship.
I’ve wondered at this. If we’re alike in our desires, what keeps us from turning to our left and to our right to cultivate friendship with those around us?
Well, it’s not that simple, you might say, as you point to your failed attempts, your open wounds, the boxes you’ve just unpacked in a new community, your insecurities and assumptions, or your overextended schedule.
Oh yes, I know all the reasons why it’s not so simple because I’ve given them myself, and I know all too well how quick we are to make those reasons into excuses and those excuses into thick walls. My wall has historically been built upon the excuse that I’m a pastor’s wife and women treat me differently because of it. I’ve rehearsed this excuse in my mind–while simultaneously taking the do-nothing, hope-for-the-best approach to friendship.
I have come to believe that our own excuses are one of our biggest obstacles to friendship, but I think there is one greater: we don’t have an understanding of what true friendship is or how God designed it. In the void, we’ve taken up a cultural definition that makes friendship unattainably idyllic and about self: Who is doing what for me? Ho do other people make me feel? Who is reaching out to me or including me? Who is honoring me?
Without a biblical understanding of friendship, we tend toward believing we’re unique and that everyone else must mold themselves around our personalities, our needs, and our schedules. As a result, we continually aspire to ideal friendship that is easy, comfortable, fun–and initiated by others. Perhaps this explains why we perpetually thirst in a desert.
As Christians, we must look to the Bible to inform our friendships. In this book you hold in your hands, we will look together to God, in his Word, for our definition and practice of friendship.
Spoiler alert: we’ll find that friendship is a by-product of being more concerned with others than ourselves.”
Baker Books, 2017.