Thoughts on Friendship
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean 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, Out of Solitude
Fellow pilgrims, this week I want to explore the power and purpose of friendship.
Friendship. It’s an odd thing to talk or write about. It feels awkward, vulnerable and delicate. I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that I am so desperately in need of it and to acknowledge that, is to somehow play those deepest notes upon the instrument of our soul.
If we’re really honest, we long to share our lives. In the age of social media and the constant publishing of what should often be kept private, it’s easy to recoil at the idea of giving ourselves away. Yet, unlike posts, confined to square boxes on ever updating timelines or fleeting tweets with limited characters, our lives are songs, our days are poetry, we are crafted works of art that without the intimacy and acknowledgement of others, hang upon the walls of empty galleries, yearning to invite someone into a world beyond their own.
I recently came home from a Pilgrimage with one of my best friends, Will (pictured above, in the desert together). We’ve been friends for the best part of a decade and have experienced both the roars of belly laughter, as well as the whimpers of heartbreak and grief. I had (what felt like) a profound realisation upon coming home from our pilgrimage: I’ve never felt more alive or purpose driven then in friendship. All my ambitions and hopes to heal the world could be summarised in friendship. I simply want to be known and help others feel the same. Laughing together, praying together, celebrating together, eating together, grieving, disagreeing and debating together is the evidence that we are indeed… alive. That we have been courageous enough to allow someone to step beyond the frame of our fears and insecurities and into the landscape of our story. The picture changes when someone is added, the work of art is made again, there’s a new verse in the poem, a new melody in the song. We are not static or alone but renewed and remade.
Is it full of risk? Yes. Every time. Does it cost us our control. Absolutely. Could it ruin our plans? More than likely? Will it be worth it? More than anything in the world.
In the opening scene of Christopher Nolan’s (incredible) Inception there’s a profound piece of dialogue which has helped me process loss and purpose within friendship. Here’s an excerpt from the script and some thoughts on it..
Cobb : I've come back for you... to remind you of something. Something you once knew...
[the top spins without end]
Cobb : That this world is not real.
Saito : To convince me to honor our arrangement.
Cobb : To take a leap of faith, yes. Come back... so we can be young men together again. Come back with me...
Friendship, in this lifetime, in this broken, beaten up but breathtakingly beautiful world is the art of keeping one another awake. The process of reminding each other there is a bigger and better story at work, a redemptive and hopeful narrative, who’s author isn’t fear. We keep each other from falling asleep in the pain, in the desire to be numbed and as a result, walk away from wonder.
I’m grateful to all of you who do that for me and pray we can do it for others. We will be young men and woman together again.
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.”