My family moves on average every other summer. Usually, we are heading into parts unknown, with little connections already established. Certain faith-based ministries allow me to connect and network with other women, so usually I am not starting over completely blind. But, sometimes, there is the random new city we move to in which I know not a single soul.
Being a transient family, I have had to get adept with making friends quickly. I have learned to go in, get my family established, and then create a system of support which will provide me with assistance if there is ever a true need. Sometimes, though, that process takes a lot longer that I would like. Such has been the case my family in central Florida. We will be moving again in the next five months, and recently I have had an opportunity to reflect on some of the rewards of having Catholic friends surrounding an individual who strives to live close to the Church.
Chapter Six of the Book of Sirach gives perhaps my favorite advice regarding friendship. Within the short chapter, there are warnings against trusting others too hastily, and embedded in the middle of the chapter are perhaps some of my favorite lines in the Bible,
“Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter…
Faithful friends are beyond price…
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine…
Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright, for as they are, so are their neighbors also…”
I have been burnt with trusting some acquaintances too quickly and too easily. Yet, to experience a truly biblical friendship reaps immense rewards.
Biblical friendships challenge us. Saint Teresa of Calcutta is credited with saying, “Don’t expect your friend to be a perfect person. But, help your friend to become a perfect person. That is true friendship.” True friendships require us to strive to become better people. Just like a vocation to marriage calls us to assist our spouse on the path toward Heaven, so, too, do friendships. Sometimes, that requires friends to be honest with each other, recognizing that honesty doesn’t mean there is judgment; rather, it is intended to help each other on the path toward perfection.
Biblical friendships encourage us on our faith journey. I recently spent time reflecting on a question posed by a young Confirmation student – would she have to give up her non-Christian friends upon Confirmation? As I considered her question, I began thinking of my own truly biblical friendships. These friendships are the ones alluded to in Sirach 6:17, the ones who “direct their friendship aright.” Some of my childhood friends have drifted from me as I became more religious; and, perhaps, more importantly, the friends I hold dear today encourage me along my faith journey. Had I met some of my friends today, when I was in my late teens, early twenties, we would have had nothing in common. Back then, I was more focused on the “here and now,” rather than turning my thoughts toward eternity.
Biblical friendships bolster us. When we are making a transition from a secular, worldly-focused lifestyle to a more eternal-focused lifestyle, we can get pretty lonely. We want to speak with others about the newfound relationship with Christ, the latest Bible study, the remarkable homily we heard, or the parenting technique which falls in line with our personal preferences, and yet, we face the difficulty of not having someone around who “gets it.” This creates a lonely chasm, in which most of us will rely heavily on Christ to sustain us. Yet, St. Maximilian Kolbe offers us words of insight and wisdom, “God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle. In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal.”
Biblical friendships look past the superficial. We all have friendships which are surface-deep. Those are the friendships that don’t go further than possibly exchanging Christmas cards every year. But, biblical friendships? Those dig deep. Those are the friendships that find a person not just asking “how” their friend is doing, but dissatisfied with a one-word answer, will try to get to the root of their friendship’s response. They are the friends who open their homes at any time of the day or night, who come over to make a meal or do the laundry, or simply hold a sobbing friend as they consider uncharted waters and unplanned challenges in life.
Biblical friendships are rooted in love. Faith-based friendships base themselves off the example of the Ultimate Friend. Yet, even before Christ’s first coming, we see the example of biblical friendship strongly displayed in the relationship of Ruth and Naomi, and again in Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth. Instead of focusing on whether or not someone parents like us, or has a marriage similar to us, or even whether or not the other woman shares many common interests with us – those similarities pale in comparison with the underlying belief, which is hope in our future with Christ.
How then, are we to acquire these “biblical friendships”?
One need to “simply” ask God for a friend who will help them grow closer to Him. Let Him place her in your pathway, whether it be in the waiting room of the after hours animal emergency care, or a bathroom at church, or simply in the same pew as you day after day; your biblical friends are around. Ask Him, and then listen for His gentle nudge.
There are women waiting to be a true friend to you, and there are also women longing for true friendship.
St. Thomas Aquinas understood the power and beauty of biblical friendship when he penned, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” Friendships help us grow, help us learn, and help us transition.
So, today, I encourage you to reach out to one of your biblical friends. Thank them for the impact they have had in your life. And, be sure to share with her the great qualities that she possesses that make her qualify as a “biblical friend.”
Finally, join me in contemplating your own contribution to your friendships.
Would you consider yourself a biblical friend?
How can you truly grow to be a sturdy shelter, life-saving medicine, or a friend who “directs [your] friendship aright”?
How can you be that biblical friend to another woman?