I feel like I need to blog, but I’m not exactly sure what I want to blog about. One thing I want to blog about is my experience at Winter Conference this year in Toronto. However, after writing my original blog post, I realized it was way too long, so I’ll hold off on that for now (I’m trying to keep this short). What I wanted to blog about today is related to how my Winter Conference experience went this past week. There are certain things I want to ponder and share about friendship – about the words we use and our actions. And I also wanted to share some thoughts on what God has to say about our friendships.
About friendship. I’ve especially been learning over the last part of the year that my friendships are another area of instability and insecurity in my life. Which is kind of weird, because most people see me as very social and connected (I am, but a lot of that is at a superficial-to-moderate level). It’s also weird because “relationships & community” is one of those things that is important to me (marriage & family, poverty & needs around the world, and people’s relationship with God are the other things I get most worked up about). But that’s an area I’ve always been weak in, especially when I was growing up.
I never really hung out with friends when I was young. Part of that is being Chinese, but for my family it seemed a foreign concept to me. My best friends were my brother and especially my sister (I’ve always been very close with her, and I grew up with her always taking care of me and stuff like that, as my big sister). I had “friends” in school, but I never hung out with them outside of school. To further complicate things, I skipped a couple grades when I was 7 and went to a small Christian private school so I could do that. That was actually a decent environment, because it was such a small school that all the grade levels hung out together, more or less. And then there’s the University Transition Program, which I actually quite enjoyed and is where I got to know one of my closest friends (of the past 10 or so years now). But almost all of my friends from that program went to UBC, and I went off to SFU by myself – a place where I was 4 years younger than everyone. I started to get involved in my youth group at Church later on, but I wasn’t that close to people there (both geographically and relationally). Now a lot of my SFU C4C friends are, well, not in Waterloo.
When I came to Waterloo this Sept/October, a couple of my good friendships that I already had here in Ontario suddenly had to change, in one case. In another valued friendship, a couple of things happened in quick succession that caused me to feel expendable (like I might actually be abandoned at any time, depending on who else was around) or rejected, because of a percieved injury that I inflicted. I guess if these sorts of things happened with people I was just beginning to befriend, it wouldn’t affect me too much, but the reason it hurts is because these are valued friends, people I’ve invested time and joy in, and my desire is to see us feel safe with each other, and to look at our friendships together and see the goodness of God in it, and His grace. And so when I do things to hurt my friends or create distance in the friendship, or when those things are done to me, it hurts. (And I think it should)
What God thinks about friendship
I’ve been thinking about what God tells us about the family of believers, and about friendship, and about love. The reason is, well, because the last few days have been a bit of an emotional up & down session for me and so I’ve been thinking about what God might think about what I’ve experienced lately. The first thing that comes to mind is from Proverbs, I believe. Let me go look it up.
Proverbs 10:20 – “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (ESV)
Ok, I didn’t have that verse in mind when I was thinking about this, but it sums up what I’m feeling exactly. I’ve said rash things to some of my friends this past week at Conference. A month or two ago, I spoke without thinking through enough how my words, my tone, and the expressions on my face might affect a friend. That was devestating to my friend at that moment. And I also know how it feels like to have that returned to you. Not only can rash words feel like a blow to your gut, but sometimes the absence of kind words or concern can do the same thing. The sad principle behind “rash words”, I think, is that it shows a lack of care or concern for your friend. So whether you say some hurtful things (or hold back from saying loving things), or you just act in a hurtful manner, it can accomplish the same result.
I think what we all desire in friendship is a wise tongue that brings healing. Sometimes I wish for a friend to open their mouth to speak words of healing or care. It’s hard, because it takes initiative, and some risk, and some vulnerability. But I desire for my brother and sister to love me that much to try.
John 13:34-35 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)
What does it mean to be commanded? How can someone be commanded to love? How did Christ love those guys He was talking to?
Jesus loved those guys enough to die for them, both in serving them while He was alive, and through His wrath-bearing, saving death. This is why He told us, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, ESV) Loving someone means to be committed to their best interests AND delighting and treasuring that other person. You can’t fully love someone if you’re not liking them. And why does Jesus command this? I think because it’s that important. It’s that necessary to our lives. And it’s that good for us.
The reason I wrote this blog post is because I’m processing through certain things, and I think it’s been helpful to get these thoughts out in a structured way. But the main reason I knew I wanted to write this is because I believe part of being a good friend is letting your friends know your needs. It’s hard to love someone if they hide everything inside and never open up to you. So it’s my prayer that God would continue to build us up, together, into a healthy family that shows the world how good and glorious Jesus is. Amen 🙂