"I think of how sometimes God puts people together, maybe more often than we realize. We can disregard it, lie to ourselves, find the reasons why it's impractical. But something within the creation of them connects. I've been afraid of it. There is something fearful in revealing our true selves, allowing others to peer intimately inside. It takes such trust, and none of us are completely trustworthy. It's a risk, and there will be disappointment, opposing views, disenchantment, but the fusing of two imperfect lives is something of the divine." -- "The Salt Garden" by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma
Years ago Amanda and I challenged each other to define friendship. It seemed such an easy thing, to define something both so ordinary and extraordinary and something so intrinsically woven into the human experience. I mean childhood friendships predate being able to tie our own shoes or print our own names. Yet I found it to be so illusive and difficult to put to paper, to put words together to definitively define it. And so I never did complete that challenge. It was, to me, like trying to capture a wild creature. Amanda never showed me her definition of friendship either. We continued our friendship but never defined it and to this day haven't brought back up our failure of that seemingly simple challenge. I, however, have thought of that challenge from time to time wondering if I could define it yet. If I could capture friendship on paper, word by word.
Today I was reading "The Salt Garden" on my kindle and the closest thing to a good definition leapt off the screen and stopped me in my tracks. "... the fusing of two imperfect lives is something of the divine." That is the best definition of friendship I have ever come across. God is inherently involved as the author and developer of friendship. He made the first introductions and has been doing it ever since. Friendship is often the greatest motivator for me to grow and move forward. To lean in and drink deep from the fountain of friendship requires trust and risk and care and discernment. And once those waters get polluted with toxic friendships it becomes even more challenging and an even greater risk. Some people stand by and watch poisoned waters slowly pass by with bits of refuse floating and sinking up the general area. You won't find those people drinking deeply from that source. They stand by, alone and bitter, with sour stomachs and matching drawn faces unable to move forward. The risk and hard work it would take to filter and clean that stream is just too much trouble.
I've been that person. I've watched what seemed to be a sparkling source of refreshing and quenching friendship turn blood-red with death, malodorous in it's rapid decay, driving me to my knees in trembling disbelief. Perhaps that description seems a bit too melodramatic? Perhaps you have forgotten. Perhaps you don't allow yourself to swim deeply in those waters. I have been both the cause of polluting and the recipient of such pollution. And it does require much courage and strength to filter and try again. Miraculously we have God to step in and purify and prompt us with the Holy Spirit to dive deep again.
Just yesterday I found out that my Dutch friend Leonie whom I met through my friend Wendy while I was visiting her in Macedonia during my spring break at language school in France made friends with my Dutch friends Jan and Tabitha whom I met in Bongolo before they moved to Senegal where Leonie and her family recently moved to with their work as Dutch diplomats. So I sent along Leonie's phone number to Jan and that led to a lovely dinner for both families. I introduced two sets of friends living in a foreign country I have yet to visit. They are expats from the same country speaking the same heart language living in the same foreign country. They are Christ followers and I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Isn't that truly amazing? And can I really take credit for something so incredible? The divine has to be involved. Such things are not native of this small spinning globe hung so delicately within the fragile framework of galaxies and universes and beyond. I will end my feeble attempts to define friendship with a quote from the great Buzz Lightyear, "To infinity and beyond!"