Books and articles on friendship are available everywhere. Greeting card sentiments, cute emojis, books on boundaries and the differences in friend circles are all readily available. So why talk about friendship? For that matter, why put it on a list of heart habits to cultivate?

Years ago, when we were first starting out in ministry, we had trouble finding community that allowed life to be messy. We had places to go and have fun, but not to fall apart. Places to do work but not just be. It was lonely and a little scary as it left us holding our inward questions and messiness in isolation while outwardly trying to match an environment that wasn’t geared for inward mess.

When that happens, some problems begin to emerge. Somewhere along the line you have to choose where you will put your energies. And for most of us, the energies go toward outward realities. Over time, discrepancies arise because the inside and the outside don’t match.

Another issue that comes is that we were made for deep connection. Without taking the risks to deeply connect we are stunted in our ability to grow, not able to inhabit more fully the design God had in mind for us. This point was driven home to me when our mentor asked us one time about our community. We relayed that it wasn’t very meaningful or “real,” so we felt disconnected and on our own quite a lot. His response was this: “That’s too bad because it means there’ll be some areas where you just can’t grow.” I remember feeling a little desperate when he said that.

He was right. Without the presence of one or two, sometimes three or four people with whom we walk this life together, taking the risk to let our real selves be seen and known, we will always curve inward on ourselves. And that will stunt our growth. We won’t be able to see past our own logic, comfort, ego, or talent. But when desire for more creates the courage to risk moving toward someone else, even when they trigger unpleasant feelings, or say things stupidly, or pull away in silence, then we have the hope that comes when we risk looking bad in the presence of love…which is the most powerful transformative experience we can have.

If our soul is to truly come alive, curved outward rather than inward, curious and open, then we must have friends. And we must be a friend.

What’s your friend situation? Do you have one or two with whom you can be real? Are you that kind of friend for one or two people?

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