The Nature of Friendship

One of my courses this quarter is called “Friendship and the Moral Life.” I just turned in the final paper for the class, and the introduction to the paper was a reflection on friendships in my life. I thought that those three paragraphs were worth blogging about…

One of my great concerns about coming to seminary five years ago was the issue of friendship. I liked my life just fine the way it was: I had a good job, a growing spiritual life, and plenty of good friends. So uprooting myself and leaving all that behind was naturally a little frightening. But if I am honest, I would have to admit that those same friendships I was loathe to leave behind were the same friendships that were pushing me forward. These were the same friends who were not only not surprised when I told them I was going to seminary, but were in fact incredibly supportive.

The grace of friendship, however, has not been something I have left behind when I drove through the front gates of the seminary. God has certainly provided some extremely important friendships that have seen me through my formation. Those friends have also seen me through some very difficult times, including the month in first theology when both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer. I am certain now that I would not have stayed in the seminary were it not for them, and one of the spiritual insights that I remember from that time is how blessed I felt to have been in seminary at the time, because the support those friends gave me was more than I could have hoped for at any other time of my life.

The incredible grace of friendship has been a constant source of support and encouragement for me, but has also been a force that has kept me focused on doing God’s will in my life. These friends have supported me, but also on occasion called me to task, challenged me, and helped me see who I am through more objective eyes. As my friends have become more a part of my life, I have felt challenged to grow and to become a stronger servant of God than I would have otherwise. And I know that, even for some years before I came to seminary, I have always linked friendship with faith. I have experienced friendship as an icon of Incarnation: my friends help me to know God’s presence in my life and in the world.

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