Friendships come and go. In a fast-paced life, friends almost seem to be a part of the ever-changing seasons, quickly moving in and out of our lives. In a society that values efficiency and time above all else, cultivating friendships often gets left at the end of an ever-growing to-do list. The problem is that developing, nurturing, and maintaining friendships takes time. There is a need to set aside time in our ever-busy lives to slow down and enjoy the blessing of a growing friendship. Whether it is a recently discovered friend or an ‘old’ friend, the need to cultivate the friendship remains. Like all of our relationships in life, we cannot expect to grow closer in our friendships if we do not spend time together.
In my life, this issue has been a constant uphill battle, as the life of a global worker does not lend the time to develop friendships. It often seems to me that just when I have begun to enjoy a new friendship, it is time to move to a new location. Because of this constant change, I sometimes get discouraged to the point of isolating myself from new friendships. Without realizing it, a lifetime of moving has caused me to neglect one of the most important areas in a woman’s life: that of developing close friends. Sometimes instead of shying away from getting to know new people, I actually do the opposite and try to make as many new acquaintances as possible. This is also not a healthy response, as I am avoiding getting close to anyone. When I think about why I have developed such unhealthy habits in relationships, I know that much of my behavior is due to a fear of saying goodbye. There is this nagging feeling that whomever I get close to will be yet another person I have to leave someday.
As I get older, I have come to realize that life is too short to live in this manner. The Lord showed me that we have been called to closeness in our relationships as Christians, through the very nature of our identity in the Body of Christ.
I recently developed a friendship with a woman while my family was stationed in the US for a short period. As our friendship grew and deepened, I began to fear the inevitable goodbye, for I knew that the time would go quickly—and of course, it did. And yet, when my family and I prepared to return to our overseas assignment, I discovered that the emotions I had as I said goodbye to my dear friend were not nearly as painful as I had anticipated. I realized that this was not the end of the friendship but rather a new phase to go through together. I also had the assurance that we would continue to maintain our friendship throughout the miles of separation. The knowledge of how much I had grown in Christ through this friendship was a treasure I would not trade for all the pain of goodbye. It was as if I finally realized that this was well worth the goodbye. The joy of getting to know this dear woman made the ache of the goodbye bearable. And the assurance that He would hold us close gave me great comfort.
Now, five years after that first goodbye, we still have a relationship that has not faded. I wonder how many relationships I have shied away from in the past, missing out on this great gift of true friendships. I have learned that being in a ministry that requires many changes is not an excuse for denying ourselves the joy of intimate friends. As I think about the relationships that Jesus cultivated in His time on earth, I am specifically reminded of the closeness He and John shared. In Portuguese, there is an expression that refers to that intimacy—amigo do peito, meaning literally “a friend of the chest,” in reference to John laying his head on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper.
I know now that this is the type of friendship God wants to give us as His children. To run away from a blessing like this would be a great loss in this life.