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The Importance of Friendship

The Importance of Friendship
The Importance of FriendshipThere have been many times in my life that I have felt like I was a ship at sea struggling against the storm, wondering where land and safety might be. The storm raging around me, I was lost. The waves crashing again and again, I was in danger of sinking. Had it not been for the lighthouse upon the shore I may have never found my way to safety.

I believe that God puts people in our paths at just the right time. They are lighthouses to help guide us and lead us to safe shores. Friends can help ground us, help save our sanity, help us see the good in life, and help carry us through the most difficult times of our lives. While there are many in our world who believe they must stay guarded at all times, there are others who know and understand the beauty of developing and cherishing deep friendships.

I would dare to say that most of us have at least one person we call a friend, some of us have even more people we call friends. But do we truly believe that friendship is important? Do we only acknowledge our friends when we need something or do we make time for them even when it seems we don’t have much time to spare?

The Importance of FriendshipFriendship is important. Christ knew this well. We remember in the story of Mary and Martha that Jesus corrected Martha who was angry with Mary for simply sitting at Jesus’ feet and was not helping her with the preparations. Jesus simply says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

How often do we neglect our friendships because we have too many other things to do?

We read later that Lazarus, Mary and Martha’s brother, also a friend of Jesus, had died. Jesus didn’t go immediately to him when He found out that Lazarus was ill. He didn’t go immediately so that His followers could believe in Him when they witnessed Him raise Lazarus from the dead. While Christ knew what was going to happen, as He asked Mary where they had taken Lazarus, something astounding happens… the Scriptures tell us, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

The Importance of FriendshipChrist, who knew that His friend would be raised from the dead, was overcome with emotion and wept. Did He weep because His friend had died? Did He weep for those who mourned Lazarus? Did He weep for all of us? Perhaps it’s not important why Christ wept but rather it is important that He was there for those He loved and He showed true, deep emotion. His mere presence brought hope, but I imagine His gift of emotion {of love} helped others understand the true value of friendship.

How often do we hide our love and guard our emotions, unwilling to show our true hearts and souls to our friends, and unwilling to be completely there for them in their darkest hour?

It is only later in John15 that we come to understand Christ’s true teaching about the importance of friendship. He tells us, “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends.” While His friends could not understand the gravity of the teaching, Jesus knew that He would model this type of love and friendship by laying down His life for all of us. Soon the entire world would come to understand what true friendship was.

This is a difficult teaching to accept. What does it mean? Are we each called to die for our friends? Maybe the situation will arise that we will be called to make this ultimate sacrifice, but more than likely we will never be asked to do so. Instead, perhaps we are being called to “die to self” and to put others’ needs ahead of our own. We are being called to voluntarily serve one another. We are asked to set aside our selfish desires to be there heart and soul for our friends, especially in their darkest hours.

How often do we fail to die to ourselves so that our friends may live?

Friendship is important. Christ showed us not only how to be a friend but what is expected of us as friends. When we treat our friends well, when we place their lives above our own, we show that we value Jesus’ friendship. It is important that we choose our friends wisely and that we treat our friends well. Our friendships have the ability to help us heal; help us find the safety of the shore, and help lead us to Christ.

Are you neglecting your friendships? If so, today is a wonderful day to begin anew and to reconnect. What is holding you back?

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. ~Henri Nouwen

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No Greater Love than This Part 3: A Reflection

It seems unreal that one year ago today I was standing in my bathroom, my hands shaking as they held a positive pregnancy test.  That test would bring such joy and fear all in the same moment.  I didn’t realize that it would also bring heartache, strife, resentment, community, support, and love.  The journey that God had chosen to lead us on was overwhelming.  Still, He provided us with everything we needed every step of the way.

spiritual growthToday, just a mere four months after giving birth to a beautiful son, our struggles seem almost distant. There are, however, reminders of that journey.  We have lost friends.  We have felt judged. We still feel judged.  We have felt alone.  Things have changed for us.  We can never be the same.  But it’s ok.  God sometimes asks us to do difficult things because He knows in the end that they are in our best interest.  He knows that without those struggles we may stay in the same place, doing the same things, and never grow the way He knows we need to grow.  Looking back at our journey I know that every struggle, every battle, every heartache had purpose.  Likewise, every triumph, every prayer raised for us, and every heart converted also had purpose.  God used every single part of my pregnancy to help me see that my trust in Him would be my saving grace.

Our faith was challenged.  I dare say that the faith of those around us was challenged as well.  As Catholics we teach that we are supposed to give ourselves to God, to submit to His will. We are to cherish life, fight for it even!  We are to trust Him in all we do. We are to rely on God to help us through the worst of the worst.  We are called to live the lives of saints.  I found out very quickly that while we like to preach this, often we don’t truly support those who decide to live this way.

We tend to have a romanticized view of what it means to live a saintly life.  We look at the people the Church has deemed “Saints” and are amazed at the sacrifices they have made for their faith.  We call them heroes for giving up their lives for their beliefs, for putting others before themselves, for selling all they own and living in poverty so that others may come to know God, for submitting to God’s will in every aspect of their lives.  These Saints are amazing!  They are wonderful!  They are worthy of emulating!  But in the “real world” when someone decides to try to live according to these same standards it suddenly is different… the person is foolish, selfish, and irresponsible.  How can that be? Why do we look at some as saints and others as fools?  I would struggle with this question my whole pregnancy.

st. giannaBecause I have been taught that the Saints are there for us, both to guide us to God through the example of their lives and to pray for and with us, throughout my pregnancy I looked to many saints to help me wade through the difficulties I was facing.  We prayed for the Blessed Zelie and Louis Martin to intercede on our behalf.  I asked St. Gianna to pray that I have strength and faith.  I wondered if she face the criticism that I was facing by choosing life for her baby even though it meant that she would lose her own.  I prayed that Mary, who also had a surprise pregnancy, would hold me close to her and help me forgive those who did not understand and who judged me.  I pleaded with them to keep me close to them in prayer.  While I knew I was a fool in many eyes I also knew that in the eyes of the One who matter most I was doing exactly what I was called to do.

God knows our hearts.  I firmly believe He knew I would have no problem choosing life for my child.  That was not the lesson I needed to learn.  Perhaps others needed to see the beauty in putting my child’s life before my own, but for me He had another lesson in mind.  You see, what I learned from this journey and through all that we experienced, both good and bad, was that in the end we are not put here to please others; we are here to please God.  Others may ridicule us, they may not support us when we try to live the way the saints have lived, and we may even be persecuted for living our faith.  But it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we continue to have steadfast trust in God and that all we do glorifies Him.

I won’t lie and tell you that it was an easy lesson to learn or that I still don’t struggle with wanting those people to accept my life, to accept my decisions, to accept my faith.  But I know, just by looking at my tiny son, snuggled safely in my arms, that the decision to trust in God no matter what is far more important than what any person could think, say or feel about me.  I have to live my life for God, not for others.

If you find yourself in a situation where God is calling you to follow Him and you worry what others may say about you or that it is too difficult a calling to answer, I pray you find hope in the trials we have been through.  God has never left my side, not even once.  He won’t leave yours.  He will provide you with the grace and wisdom to make it through even the hardest times.  He loved you so much that He sent His Son to lay down His life for you.  He won’t leave you.  His love is so much greater than we can ever imagine.  I only have to look at my own son to know this is true.