Thursday, June 23, 2016

Friendship, Spiritual Friendship and Ministry

I do not have many friends. I am not ashamed of that. I think that it has to do with my definition of what a friend is. I prefer quality to quantity

A friend is someone that I can be totally honest with and not lose them because of my personality flaws. I have many. They are willing to be brutally honest with me when it's required, telling me what I need to hear, even if it pisses me off. Their personality characteristics should complement mine and not necessarily be like mine. They need to be intelligent enough to argue with me and gracious enough to forgive me. I need to be able to depend on them when I need support; a favor I am always compelled to return. Most importantly, they have to love me.

I get all this and much more from a handful of people in my life and these people have one thing in common. Consistency. They are always available to me and they love me. It is a spiritual thing.

Love is different for me because I am celibate. No sex. No marriage. Only friendships. Since the first two are missing in my life the last one has to fill a major void. There are many that do not want to get that deep with me. Usually it's because they are married or very private or not accustomed to this depth of friendship with someone other than maybe a spouse.

For me there is nothing better than a spiritual friendship. It's kind of like marriage without sex and the added bonus that you can go home at the end of the day. To know and be known. There is no greater bond. For me it is the closet thing to falling in love. It's emotional, it's intellectual and it can even be physical to a certain point without sexuality. These kinds of relationships can be difficult to navigate early on, you can get you heart stomped on if you choose poorly or you can create a bond that will last a lifetime.

Many people will say that this kind of friendship is unnatural for older adults, that this kind of friendship should be reserved for marriage and maybe that it's even homoerotic in some cases.

Well maybe. I don't care what people think. If you are my friend, you will experience the love and loyalty of a marriage partner without as much luggage. I'm kind of high maintenance. Don't worry about it. Please just be there. I will be fine. I'm self repairing in most instances.

I have been reading a book called, "Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love In The Church as a Celibate Gay Christian" by Wesley Hill. He is a very wise and well read man (he's a teacher) and he seems to understand what I talk about above in the same unique way. He is of the opinion that all Christians should become the type of friends that I describe above and he writes about it very eloquently in his book. His research centers around how the nature of friendship in Christian circles has changed through the centuries. He thinks we need to recapture many things that have been lost or replaced with shallow acquaintances that seem almost unspiritual. I have to agree with him. I would recommend his book to you. It would certainly help you to understand me better if you are trying to be a friend to me or if you think I have too much interest as my friend in your personal life. To that last I would say 'fear not'; you can trust me.

I guess what I am getting to is that if you really want to minister to people and be effective, you have to be willing to get involved with people intimately on a personal level. We have got to get to know them. We have to be willing to risk hurt and pain and being pissed off to move forward in a Christlike manner in relationship and spiritual friendship with others.

You can find such friendships in the Bible. They are natural and normal and sometimes hurtful, but they seem to be worth the trouble. David and Jonathan or Jesus and John come to mind. Oh to be John. Think of the things you would have been privy to.

To my brethren in the church, I would say this. We need to be closer. We need to be more honest with each other. We need to share our struggles and victories and how Christ helps us work through these. We need to be more than just shallow acquaintances that discuss fishing, lawn mowing and Aunt Mabel's nephrectomy as we gather at the church coffee shop.

I have been fortunate enough to experience spiritual friendship. I would like everyone to know the joy. There is nothing like it.    

No comments: