Friends make time for each other22 Aug 2018
We hear from spiritual guides such as William Barry SJ in A Friendship Like No Other that ‘human friendship [is] the best analogy for what God wants with us’.
Friends make time for each other. We prepare meals and listen to music; we go to sports events and dance unashamedly at weddings. We might be walking, singing, knitting, soup vanning, discussing books, or attending a rally; but in all these things we are together. Even when we are apart, the friendship continues.
We communicate through conversation and silence. We give the gift of presence and receive that same gift in return. We laugh in times of joy and console in times of sadness. We give ourselves to the friendship, and we seek the same from our friends. We hope for the best for each other such that we want to be there to celebrate achievements and prepare the cups of tea when loss arrives.
A true friend is a gift from the One who is the source of all friendship. The One who places our desire for friendship within our hearts provides us the grace to be open to sharing this gift with others.
‘I have called you friends’ Jesus assures us (John 15:15). While walking the earth he became a true friend, sharing the table, the road, the hillsides, and the seas with those who drew close to him. He spoke about the friendship of God with all who sought his presence. Ultimately, Jesus laid down his earthly life for his friends. He then rose to a new life of friendship with all who would call on his name.
So, if Jesus assures us of his abiding friendship why don’t we commit to spending time with him? As friends have to align calendars to ensure we make time for each other, is it not the same with us and our God? We might make time for the Eucharist together once a week, so how about an extended mid-week catch-up, or a conversation reviewing the day over a mug of peppermint tea?
These commitments will flow into how we see and hear the ordinary events of our lives. We might begin to be attentive to God’s friendship while watching a football game; a twinkle in our eye as we witness a great mark or an incredible goal. When listening to the songs streamed to our ears, we might begin to recognise the music as consolation; a gift of God in the lyrics, harmonies, or rhythms. We might hear the words ‘seeking God in all things’ once more and now discover the phrase has a deeper resonance with our experience.
One basic fact of human friendship is that it requires mutuality and exchange for it to continue. When it comes to friendship with God, however, we have a guarantee from God’s side of the relationship. There is a commitment from one side which is ongoing. Maybe that’s what puts fear into us. We don’t believe we are worthy of such a gift and so we recoil from giving any time to the relationship. It’s as though we feel we won’t get that time back. Or that this friendship might make onerous demands on us. As if friends take away each other’s freedom.
Again and again, we have been given the assurance that there is no distance present in our relationship with God. The distance remains because we believe our hearts are far from ‘the house of the Lord.’ But God loves us first (1 John 4:19), and waits to greet us on our terms: at table, in the lounge, on the road, or at the football.James O'Brien is a graduate teacher who works as an Editorial Assistant with Jesuit Communications.