If you want to have a truly delicious cup of tea, it will take time. You won’t settle for plopping a tea bag in a cup. You’ll want to good loose-leaf tea of your preference that you steep to perfection. You’ll enjoy the fragrance and the color as well as the taste and if you can linger perhaps, you will enjoy a scone with fresh Devonshire cream. If you’re not a tea drinker and prefer coffee, you will likely take pleasure in a great coffee ground from fresh beans and brewed or poured over to just the right strength.
Despite how our lives are often lived at a quick pace and we gobble up information in bytes on devices of various kinds, the best things in life take time. And never has that been truer than in relationship and especially friendship. The friendship that satisfies our souls is one that is not rushed and sampled in bytes of any form because it requires real conversation rather than texts or messaging. Why? Because that is how you come to truly know and become known by another person.
Is it risky? Absolutely! It exposes us, requires vulnerability and with all of that, the risk of rejection or exposure.
“…friendship is being known by someone else and loved anyway. Friendships in which we’re vulnerable make or break our lives. With them we thrive, and without them an essential part of us – if not all of us – dies.”Justin Whitmel Earley
If we have lived any length of time, we already know what those risks can be. Earlier in our life overnight sleepovers or long talks can result in us sharing things about ourselves that perhaps no one knows. We feel uncertain about sharing them, but somehow, we want to share them also. Sometimes that doesn’t work out very well and we feel betrayed when the person shares it with others or decides we aren’t the person they hoped or thought. Yes, it is a risk, but we take it because built into our DNA is a desire to be truly known and truly loved by someone.
I say it was built into our DNA because I think God created us that way because of who He is. He is a Trinity, a relationship of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. That relationship is what we stem from so it’s natural for us to desire friendship at deep levels. Our challenge is that we are flawed human beings, not the perfect Trinity.
“…there is only one time in the creation story when God says the words ‘not good,’ and it is when a man is alone (Genesis 2:18). Everything else that comes before is pronounced ‘good.’ “Justin Whitmel Earley
Consider that Adam was not alone then. God was with Him in the Garden of Eden in unfettered relationship. There had been no fall yet that separated Adam from God and yet, God saw Adam needed friendship beyond that and Eve was created.
This level of friendship I speak of is not one born of shared interests, concerns, activities, and identities that may be the thing that brings us together. We may have multiple people in our lives that this would be true of, and we enjoy those shared things without necessarily sharing much about the inside of us that goes deeper and beyond all those things.
“Vulnerability and time turn people who have a relationship into people who have a friendship. That’s what friendship is: vulnerability across time. The practice of conversation is the basis of friendship because it’s in conversation that we become exposed to each other.”Justin Whitmel Earley
Earley’s definition makes clear we will not have a long list of these friendships because time needed to develop such relationship will never be enough beyond just a few at a time. When we are young, we may not recognize that and speak of having a lot of friends without realizing how much it costs to gain a deeper level of friendship, to have someone who sees our brokenness, our mistakes, and idiosyncrasies and loves us anyway. That’s what taking the risk and being known can gain for us and it’s priceless even though it won’t happen every time we take that risk.
Over the course of my life, there have been seasons when I did not have the gift of deep friendship and I was poorer for it in many ways. My life has also involved cherished deeper levels of friendship that did not stay at that level because the person moved to a different place so far away that we could not connect face-to-face and share regularly together. Sometimes illness or other things interrupted the flow of time and regular connection and here and there death came and ended something precious. Sometimes the time needed to develop will give you a special friendship unique in every way.
It can happen when the little girl you adored becomes the teen who can’t keep her room organized to the woman who becomes a wife and mother. You know things about each other no one else does. You have seen each other at your best (hopefully) and worst. You are each other’s biggest fans and cheerleaders and know what you look like when you have on no makeup, are sick and cranky, or lose your temper. That stays more connected even when hundreds of miles separate you.
It can happen with sons too with moms but more so with dads as girlfriends and wives come into their life. It will look different for men since feelings and deep internal thoughts do not find words as easily many times, but as time allows and age increases that too can change.
“The vulnerable friendships that embody the gospel don’t happen because we wish we had them; they happen because they’re cultivated over time. They grow because we arrange the trellis of habit that allows them to flourish.
Friendships are hard when you don’t actually have time together, which is why friendships are not just about vulnerability but also about time.”Justin Whitmel Earley
Justin Earley talks about how he chose to live in a particular area because of close friends there in his book I have been quoting, The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction.
But even then, with persistence and effort and creativity and a LOT of travel time, you can make it special and deepen over the years of your life.
“The fundamental truth of friendships is not that love is limited but that love is infinite. We know this because the friendship of the Trinity did not generate less love, but more love. By virtue of making us like him, God in creation expanded the circle of friends. Jesus now calls us friends, and by saving us, he invites us into the dance of the Trinity. The circle of love is open and expanding. The nature of true friendship is not to shut the outsider out, it is to draw them in.”Justin Whitmel Earley