by Natasha Lowe
“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
The struggle to find Kingdom Friendships
Kindergarten, Primary school, Secondary, Junior College; my social circles continuously extended beyond just one. I was happy talking to new people, used to making connections through various platforms, and comforted by the fact that I could easily assimilate myself into different groups of people without batting an eyelid. These were all people whom I called my friends, people who I went out to watch movies with, people whom I met up with to celebrate the new year together.
I always thought that this was the way my life was supposed to be. I had a healthy field of friends; of course, with some friendships deeper and stronger and more stable than others, but I was content.
It wasn’t until entering university that I began to question many things around me; relationships with others, being one of the most pressing issues that bothered me. Coming into university was like a shock to my entire system; my beliefs, my lifestyle, my habits, my language, even who I was, were all things that were put into question. I felt as though everybody’s priorities, goals and concerns in life were vastly different from my own. In class, most people were striving to beat the bell curve. In hall, establishing connections seemed more important than proper friendships. Among friends, conversation topics revolved gossip and guys. Everything felt fleeting and even pointless
Why was it that most people could find a group of friends to call their own? How was it that they managed to feel more comfortable with these new people as time went by, when all I was feeling was more and more displaced? This social butterfly had forgotten how to fly.
I was so used to being able to assimilate and find my place in new environments, so used to having people that I could connect with, that I started to lose myself in this sudden loneliness. I was looking for people who I could really share deeply and comfortably with. People who could remind me of my identity in Christ, a truth so easily forgotten and warped by the environment I was in.
But it was in this period of desolation that Jesus drew me to cling on tighter to him. “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” –Psalm 34:18. For some reason, I began going for cell group sessions more often in my university’s catholic community. A motion that up until that point of time felt more like an obligation, surprisingly became a time and place that I felt immense peace.
I found people who were all chasing the same thing: to know and love Christ better, just like I was trying to do. But it wasn’t only that seeking of God that brought us together, it was how we struggled that drew us closer too. I found that the girls in my cell group could relate to my desire to put God first in my life, and understand the difficulty of letting go of worldly pleasures, to do so. As these girls turned from mere cell group mates to friends, I remember feeling this distinct sense of security and comfort in being around them. All the individual conversations I had with each of them were essential stepping stones to reaffirming my identity as a daughter of God, each time I fell.
I failed to see it at first, but these friendships I had made with my cell group mates were different from others I had before. Not to say that my friendships from before were not precious and valued, but what I discovered was that there was a distinction between the kinds of friendships we have.
Some are just transactional, never extending beyond a certain level of depth. Some are for pleasure, filled with fun and exhilaration. And then some are virtuous: existing to lead each other to more good in their life. This was the kind of friendship God had given to me through my cell group. The quantity or network of friends, of people I knew no longer became something that was a priority, but the priceless kingdom friendships I was gifted with, and the ability to recognize them when they appeared was what I started to hold close to me.
Recognising your Kingdom Friendships
The term “kingdom friendships” sounds like a lovely phrase to caption our Instagram photos with, and doodle over our polaroid pictures, but do we know exactly what it means?
St. Augustine said that true friendship requires 3 things, and these things are what I believe are present in my God-given friendships as well!
- NECESSITY OF VIRTUE – The desire to lead each other closer to God and to be a friend who wills the good of the other. “We are most fully human when we are making a gift of ourselves to others”. Just like the friends who brought the paralytic to Jesus in the gospel of Mark, kingdom friends have that genuine desire to look out for your interests and well-being and to bring you closer to God and to the kingdom of heaven.
- FRANKNESS OF SPEECH – Being honest and real about important things to your friends. It is being willing to tell your friends when what they are doing is hurting them, and not being afraid to speak the truth to your friend. They hold us accountable for what we do and say! When I get too cluttered by the lies of the world, or fall into temptation, what really helps me are friends who point out the spots that I am blind to. They say things they know are essential to bring me back to God, even though it may be hard for them to say and for me to hear.
- UNITY OF HEART AND MIND – United in our desire to love God, and making that desire greater than any other common desire to achieve something, or do something. It is intentionally choosing to grow closer to God in your friendship. “In true friends, we learn to love the love of God.” This means that we begin to see God’s love for us through our friend. I see God’s love for me through my roomie when she buys me food when I’m sick and helps me do the laundry when I’m busy! Christ is present in our friendships when we become a reflection of God’s love to others.
Who are your closest friends? Do your friendships have any of the characteristics proposed by St Augustine?
Do your friendships lead you closer to, or further away from God? Why?
- Angrisano, Steve. “Session 3: Real Friends.” FORMED, https://formed.org/study/551971b8d58c6d7c01922b75/lesson/551c1d34927f85200dda7c66. Accessed 24 August 2017.
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