Friendship in the Desert
“We cannot have a perfect life without friends.”
Many toil over their spiritual lives, seeking growth through a book, an advancement in the intellectual life, in more exertion of human will-power, and an increase in one’s prayer life. All of these things might be important, and places where grace can be found. However, what seems to be lacking sometimes is a stress on the importance of friendship.
All of us, who are fallen, are in a type of desert - and walking through the desert by ourselves is to only ask for failure. Christ wants to be present to us, to encourage us to grow, and give us His supernatural grace. Yet his presence is often mediated to us through friendship.
I do not mean that we find friendly people. I do not mean we find people we can waste time with. I mean that we find people we can intimately journey inward with Christ. Without this type of friendship, a “seeking together of Christ” in the internal aspect of our life, the desert is simply impossible to traverse.
There is chronic loneliness in our world, in part, because there are few committed to making friendships. Some do not know how - they feel awkward, unrelatable. Others struggle with mental health, depression, anxiety, and chronic fear. Some are struggling with addiction, sin, and shame.
I call to mind a friendship in my own life, where I had not learned how “to be a friend.” Stuck in the narcissisms that sometimes come with wounds, I found a patient friend who forgave, corrected, and also saw himself enriched by my own gifts. The correction could go both ways, as we habituated our quest for God as the highest goal. But often that friendship began in a one-sided way - in that prompt - in that first act of free-love.
We not only need to find friends, but we need to create friends. We need to make time for it in the spiritual life. Sometimes, as a good friend told me: “If you want a friend, be one first.”
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them.
Sirach 6: 16