As part of my morning writing practice, I usually read. Lately, I’ve been reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. Lewis’ style is one I really like, despite how different it is from mine. He’s much more academic and thorough in his writing than I am. I like to leave some things unspoken; he likes to clarify everything. So it’s a nice infusion of difference as I get ready to write each morning.
Today, I was finishing up his chapter on “Friendship,” one of the four loves (including Affection, Eros and Charity) that are the focus of the book. Much of this chapter is dedicated to Lewis’ exploration of what it means to have a true friendship. To him, friendship forms between people when they have mutual interests and mutual respect for each other. In many ways, it seems he thinks this is one of the most complicated and special kinds of love. (A refreshing thought in our Eros-obsessed culture.)
The chapter ends with a discussion of the ways that friendship can go wrong, particularly in it’s way of excluding people. So often when we talk about friendship and exclusion, we think of high school cliques, but to limit this kind of behavior to just teenagers is naive and probably detrimental to our adult friendships. I certainly have seen this exclusion in action and have been a part of it, I’m ashamed to say. One of us goes into a room where a friend is talking to other people, and we subtly block out the other person with our bodies and strike up a conversation with OUR friend. Or we talk about things that the other person in the room doesn’t know anything about. Or we simply don’t acknowledge the other person at all. I see this happen all the time.
I know – as Lewis notes – that this comes from our own insecurity, from our own desire to insure our own position with the people we care about. But it’s really a shame. If anything, our friendships should make us more secure in ourselves, and true friendships are secure as friendships, no need for exclusion or games required.
I have been thinking about friendship a lot this week as I’ve struggled with a particular relationship and tried to figure out how to heal a hurt that has been brought to it. This struggle has caused me to be grateful for some long-term friendships that I have had for now – gasp – twenty years. When I started college at Messiah, I knew no one. I walked into a place that was new with people who were all new to me. Yet, I had no doubt that I was in the right place, the place God had brought me. And it was here, twenty years ago, that I made friendships that are still my strongest to this day.
When I struggle, I call these women, some who live in Scotland and some who live nearby. When I doubt myself or need direction, I call these women. When I want to truly have a relaxing time with good friends, I call these women. I call these women because they know me and love me for who I am. They truly want only the best for me, and I for them. They are the women whose children call me “Auntie,” and they are the women who, if at the end of our lives, we are without partners, I will live with in my old age. I have no doubt of this. These women are my friends.
I was graced to find them when I went to college. I did not choose them – we all lived nearby one another or were in classes together. These were the people God knew I needed in my life, for my life, my whole life, and I am ever grateful for them.
As Lewis says,
But in Friendship, . . . we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting – any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others.
So today, I am grateful for my friendships, those that are long and deep and those that are just forming. I pray you have the same kind of friendships.
Now for the winner of The Mysterious Life of the Heart – it’s Jennifer. Congratulations. I’ll be in touch for your address.
I still have one giveaway going in honor of my 500th post. Check it out, comment, and see if you win.