A topic that has interested me since coming to faith a few years ago is that of friendship. I’d never spent much time thinking on the subject prior to following Christ. Once I began reading and studying the Bible, it became glaringly obvious that I had not, up to that point, carried out my friendships with others in a biblical way. Additionally, were I to live out my life in celibacy – something I have chosen for myself – the relationships that I develop with close friends are likely to be the closest and most meaningful relationships I will experience in my time on Earth. That primary bond which others experience with a spouse is not something I am likely to experience, and so I put a lot of value on close friends as they are to be my closest companions until God calls me home.
I’ve had many friendships in the past, several of which I would describe as close. Some based on common interests, some based on similar lifestyles, some on drinking and drugs, and one in particular just seemed to transcend any category. This last friendship I refer to started about 18 years ago and he remains to this day one of my best friends, if not my best friend. For the sake of his anonymity, I’ll call him “Jay” here. ”Jay” is heterosexual but not a Christian (in the born again sense) and the issue of my homosexuality never arose for the first couple years, and in fact I never really had to go through the process of coming out to him – although I was “closeted” at the time, he kind of picked up on it on his own and one day out of the blue just said “you’re gay, aren’t you?”. He was the first person to know. I must admit it took some weight off my shoulders after that, as somewhere in my mind my homosexuality had been a barrier between us and probably prevented me from feeling like we were close friends. After all, how could we really be close friends when he wasn’t even aware of such a major fact about me?
So now I find myself at a place where I feel like I am having some difficulties with another very good friend of mine, my closest Christian friend whom I have known for about three and a half years. Perhaps because of some of these recent struggles in this friendship, I’m realizing some of the things that I appreciate about my long-time best friend “Jay” and about that friendship itself. First and foremost, my friendship with him is just, in a word…easy. It hasn’t always been this way, but really, aside from some minor ups and downs the first couple of years, we’ve always gotten along well and always seemed to find reasons to remain friends. We both seem very in tune with each other, in so much as we can generally tell what the other is feeling or thinking at any given moment. It’s never a question of “Is something wrong or is something bothering you?” The fact that something is wrong is already obvious to us, and the question that gets asked is “What’s wrong?” And for both of us, there never seems to be any stalling or hemming and hawing in a way where the one being asked that question is trying to avoid the subject or come up with some way to sugar coat or deny the problem. It just kind of comes out naturally and confidently. A confidence placed in the other that whatever the issue may be, it’s not an issue that will divide us or disgust the other to the point of losing a friend. Perhaps additionally, even in those times where either of us perhaps would rather not talk about the issue at hand, we each have a sense of obligation to be honest with the other; maybe for no more reason than respect and loyalty to the friend and for the friendship.
One idea which demoralized me early on as a new Christian and as a result of my choice to honor God through celibacy was the whole idea of a marriage certificate. I was hung up on the idea that I would never have that one special person to marry and be committed to, as well as me being the object of the partners commitment. The thought that a close, secure relationship could take place without this contract between me and a person I loved seemed foreign. I thought that because I wouldn’t be able to have one of those super close relationships sealed with a piece of paper, I could never know true love; both mine for another and another’s for me. Looking back on my thought process and the depression I experienced over this inability to have my relationship confirmed in writing, I’m now a little perplexed about the high level of significance that I put on this and the agony and tears that my seeming inability to ever have it had brought on.
As I have grown in my faith, several things have changed in the way I approach issues and even in what becomes an issue for me at all. Yes, I still long, deep down to the core of my being, for a strong and close lasting connection with another person. A connection characterized by a deep godly love, true commitment to each other, time spent together, steadiness, intimacy, kindness, forgiveness, and security. I also still have some fears about growing old and dying alone with no one at my side; someone who fully knows me – yet still loves me – and who really cares and who’ll miss me. But these fears about not having that one true, most significant relationship and the fear about being alone in the end are evolving, and in fact, the vast majority of the time I would no longer even classify them as fears; occasional concerns may be a better way of characterizing them now – but sure, still on rare occasions, fear.
A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17 KJV
As God grows us in our faith and trust in Him, and as the Holy Spirit within us, our Helper, continues to transform us into the image of Christ, a new relationship which began at the very moment of our faith increases in its prominence. This relationship, the one which all believers have with Jesus Christ, gradually grows to meet more and more of our needs. Needs such as those that I’ve expressed previously for love, security, value, commitment, friendship, and lasting companionship. He gives us a real companionship that yes, even whether we lie alone or surrounded by loved ones as we draw our last breath, our relationship with God’s Son remains all-satisfying and comforting. And with that knowledge of Christ’s persistent, lasting, and loving involvment in my life, it is impossible that I will live my life alone or die alone.
That “all-powerful” piece of paper in which I placed so much significance for far to long as if it were some sort of litmus test for a “real” relationship cannot guarantee us of anything. It merely signifies the existence of a relationship that is meant to be a picture of the relationship we have with Christ. But in and of itself, that paper is worthless as a guarantee of love, of companionship now or at the end of this life, and it has no ability to offer security to anyone whose name appears on it. But oh, what value, love, commitment and security we find in that which the marriage certificate represents; the real, living relationship that Christ has with His church and with each of us individually!
Be patient and persevere while waiting on the Lord to meet all those needs and desires you have in your life. This is a relationship that we must grow into as the Spirit continues to effect change in us. I still experience times when our relationship is, through my sin, strained and less tangible. But I have found time and time again, that I am the unfaithful partner in this relationship, and He remains ever faithful and always waiting for me to once again seek Him out with all my heart.
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 KJV