The past few weeks I’ve been thinking over friendships that I’ve had, the idea of best friends, close friends and the thousand+ friends/contacts I have on social media. I’ve lived primarily out of my passport country, the country of my birth, for over 11 years now. I clearly resonate far more with the younger generations, primarily Millenials, than I do with people my own age or just older than me. I have deep friends in the States still and keep in contact with a few on a regular, sometimes daily basis. I’m thankful for them. A couple of them have gone through the steps of recovery along with me and we continue on that journey together.
Last week I had two similar but distinctly different encounters with friends. One was over a phone call with a friend from the States-a friendship that we’ve had for many many years. The second was on an overnight camping trip here in the countryside with a friend that I have grown closer with the past seven years. After getting off the phone call I noticed something had changed, something was different. Actually it was a feeling that I had been there for a long time, but I wasn’t able to put my finger on what I was feeling. It wasn’t until I read an excerpt from a book by my favorite author, Henri Nouwen, that I could put words with my feelings. As Nouwen was visiting his family back in Holland after living abroad for so many years, he had this to say about his reunion with them, “The feeling of having become something of a stranger in my own family was strong throughout the whole day. I had not seen many of the people at the party for more than a decade. Our reunion made me realize how much had happened to them and to me, and made me sadly aware that I no longer know the soil on which we both stand.”*
That. That was the feeling I had been feeling that night as I hung up the phone. It was more than simply not being in the same culture, it was the notion that the ground in which we used to share commonality was eroded away into something different that I didn’t recognize. Not bad, simply different.
Contrast that with my closest friend apart from Iris. While camping we shared way too many laughs, and more than a few tears as we lived life out together raw and untamed. Our emotions and thoughts intersected as we talked about Jesus, coffee, camping, pain, the beautiful mountains we were in, family, cafe design, beer, and the Bible. There was a common ground, a common struggle and a common core belief that we shared. There is freedom for listening with no need for feedback as well as freedom for pushback and disagreement. This was relationship at it’s core, and I am so very thankful.
I don’t believe that someone has to go through the exact same thing you have gone through, nor has to be older than you in order for them to understand you better. Though I believe everyone is uniquely made and does go through pain that as a total, is unique to them, I also believe that that same person is able find others who can identify with those same struggles and joys they have when looking at a small group or even a society of other people. Meaning, I believe we are not alone in our struggles nor our joys, that God has people around us who can walk with us and can identify with what we are going through. This is what I experience in true friendship and this is what I seek out.
This isn’t so much a call to action post as it is me simply sharing with you my own growth and learning of who I am in Christ. The friendships I seek out and desire are ones that are life giving and leading me to that end. I will say that part of that also involves pain as we are still people and we will disappoint each other. But, walking through the pain and seeing how that leads to peace and joy, it is worth it. As I was caught in a moment of reflection on that this week, maybe you may be encouraged to reflect on your friendships as well. And may God help you to be incredibly aware of His presence in and among them.
be blessed today
*”The Road To Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey” by Henri Nouwen.