One of my overarching prayers for this year is that God would burn in me a desire (and the grace) to be a better friend. Like many, I love people and love having friends. But I have been convicted lately that if I want to have friends I need to be a friend. For the last two years I have used the excuse that life has been crazy trying to adjust to parenthood (and with twins, no less). However, I am not the first (nor last) woman to mother twins--so I can only use that excuse for so long. Of course, friendship looks much different for me now than it did when I was single and living with roommates. Friendships happened much more naturally back then. I lived with my closest friends. I ate meals with them, ran errands with them, and went to church with them. The depth of those relationships has carried them long after I moved away and got married.
Fast forward many years and I am in a different season of life. One that requires more intentionality and affords me less time. Sometimes I have to cancel a coffee date because I have a sick kid. A lot of my relationships happen within the context of my children, so Sunday morning fellowship, small group, and even play dates are a different animal now.
All of these new revelations that I am coming to terms with are why I was excited to receive a copy of The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship by Jonathan Holmes. Holmes, a pastor of counseling at Parkside Church in Cleveland, OH, has helpfully provided a biblical framework for friendship. This short book is an excellent read for anyone desiring to grow in their understanding of friendship, but also who desires to be a better friend. Here are a few takeaways:
Biblical friendship is designed to point you to Christ. I left this book asking the question of all my friendships: "How can I point this friend to Christ?" But it would even serve the reader to ask how the friendship as a whole points you to Christ. The ultimate goal of biblical friendship is to serve the common goal of mutual sanctification and lifting high the Savior you both love. What a helpful reminder!
Friendship, like everything else, is marred by the fall. We will never have perfect friendships in this life. We were created for relationships, as seen most evidently in the fact that we are created in God's image and he is in perfect fellowship with himself (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The fact that we crave companionship is a good desire. But because of sin, we selfishly pursue friendships. We are hurt by dear friends. We hurt the ones we love most. The answer is not to abandon biblical friendship, but to understand that it will never be perfect in this life. I needed this reminder.
Friendship is more about us than about the other person, and most importantly it is about the perfect friend, our God. I found this quote particularly helpful: "I've come to learn that friendship flourishes best when we seek to be and embody the type of friend we see in God himself" (46). How often do I selfishly look at my friendships based on what they can offer me, but that is not the pattern we see from God. We offer nothing to him, yet he gives us everything. Our earthly friendships, like our other relationships, mirror the heavenly one set for for us in God.
Understand your limitations. Holmes helpfully points out that we can't be all things to all people. True biblical friendship, he says, happens best with a small number of people. Even Jesus limited his inner circle to three. This is hard for an extrovert like me, but also a helpful reminder that I am human and have limitations. Identifying the friendships that God is already forging in my life and then purposefully working to grow them in a mutual love for Christ is a better model than trying to be BFF's with everyone.
As I finished this book I asked the Lord to make me the type of friend who not only is willing to do the hard work of fostering friendships that last, but also the type of friend who is humble enough to receive the honest correction and accountability that friendship affords. I don't like being confronted. I don't like correction. But I know it is necessary for growth in godliness. I want to be a friend who hears correction and receives it with humility.
If you desire to grow in your friendships, or simply want to understand what God has to say about friendship, I highly recommend this book to you. As Holmes says in the book, we need community (particularly biblical friendship) in order to grow in godliness. We are not made for "substitute relationships", but for lasting relationships that point us to our Savior. May we all be such friends.