in april i was honored to be part of the first sacred friendship gathering in chicago, coordinated by my friend dan brennan, who is a brave & amazing advocate for cross-gender friendships. when i got home from the gathering, i entered into the beyond-crazy month of may and am just now getting around to posting some of what i shared.
for me, i don’t wake up in the morning thinking about cross-gender friendships. i just believe in them. i think that they are sorely missing in the family of God. a lot of transformation can happen through men & women learning how to be close friends in community.
but i do wake up in the morning dreaming about creating spaces that help set people free. i think that’s the big idea of this limited time here on earth–that we could learn how to be more fully human, to be more deeply connected to others, to discover what it means to love and be loved.
and friendship is where we can learn these things.
intimate, meaningful, life-changing christian community is about friendship-–men with men, women with women, and men & women together.
my friend and teammate karl wheeler has said that in all of his time in seminary he never had a class or conversation about the one thing he really needed to know to live out this life of faith–how to just be a friend. this is so true for so many of us who have been in church for a long time. we spend time on Bible studies & small groups & theology conversations & let’s-be-more-missional-initiatives, but we rarely get help & support & ways to practice this most fundamental piece of christian community–friendship.
friendship heals. friendship transforms. friendship forms us into the image of Christ.
friendship diffuses power. issues around power cause us all kinds of problems in all kinds of ways. in relationship, many of us have learned to power up on others or to give all of our power away to others. many of our faith & life experiences have cemented some of these unhealthy dynamics and kept us stuck in only knowing how to be over people or under people but not alongside each other as equals. this is why i am a nut-case for equality. friendship levels the playing field and we practice how to be with each other, shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, eye to eye, face to face. we learn how to receive, not just give and vice-versa. christ-centered friendship restores dignity. one of the main elements missing from the missional conversation, in my opinion, is centered on friendship. we like to talk about serving and helping people because that’s easier & more comfortable than learning what it means to actually be real, equal friends with-no-hidden-motive.
friendship restores brokenness. so many of us have had broken relationships in our families–missing mothers & fathers & sisters & brothers & daughters & sons. we live with a feeling of loneliness & insecurity based on some of our experiences. for me, some of my cross-gender friendships have healed deep places in my heart that needed healing. i needed more dad & brother in my life, and it comes through my friends. we have been taught that we shouldn’t “need” that, that somehow God is supposed to fill these broken places of our hearts completely. but what if God gives us real-life-in-the-flesh people as vessels of his love to help participate in this healing? this is what “incarnational” means to me, and i am grateful every day for the healing that has come through my friendships with men & women both.
friendship gives us a place to practice the ways of Jesus. i’m a big advocate for community because i don’t think we can learn what we need to learn in our prayer closets or sitting in church listening to someone talk or hanging out with a bunch of people who are just like us. the place that we learn the most is through tricky, beautiful, challenging friendship with one another. it’s where we have a chance to practice grace–with others, with ourselves. it’s the place where we learn sacrificial love. it’s where we have to trust God-at-work even though we can’t even see it yet. it’s where we are forced to engage instead of sit on the sidelines.
friendship requires courage. it requires risk. it requires stepping into uncharted waters. we are sure to get hurt. we are sure to hurt others. we are sure to get annoyed.
but like most all of the ways of Jesus, there are all kinds of beautiful benefits. through friendship, we experience love & connection & grace & freedom-to-be-just-as-we-are. we learn more about ourselves. we learn more about others. we learn more about God.
we are slowly, surely transformed.
yeah, friendship heals.
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ps: this summer on wednesday eves at the refuge, we are hosting “sacred friendship summer camp”, a place to learn & practice & be challenged in the art of friendship–men with men, women with women, men & women together. i’ll try to share what i can here about what we are learning together.
ppss: check out some of the pictures from our may express night at the refuge centered on mindfulness and noticing. here’s the post on the refuge blog with the pictures people took during our time together (there’s also a link to the whole flicker set). so beautiful!