“there is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” st. thomas aquinas
uh oh, i’m on my “men and women need to learn how to be friends” kick right now. I think it’s appropriate in light of the shared leadership conversations, too, because it gets to the center of so much of what’s broken in our systems—both in and outside of “church.” we know how to be over others or under others, but rarely do we learn how to be alongside each other. yesterday a friend shared that when reading a blog post that someone had basically commented “well, i personally would never be alone with a woman because i can’t trust myself or her.” when i read this i felt sad for a few reasons: 1. it’s so common. 2. it’s so guided by fear, and 3. it’s so limiting. 4. it doesn’t need to be this way.
staying separated greatly limits our ability to be deeply connected in the ways i think God intended. we can’t learn some of the things we need to learn about life & love & people & friendship when we’re always living out of fear in relationship with one another. also, by keeping ourselves separated, we are perpetuating deeply grooved systems of hierarchy. in the end, we all lose.
the way to break down some of these divides is to learn how to be friends.
most of us haven’t learn this very well. a lot of our family experiences didn’t teach it. work often doesn’t teach it. many of our churches certainly haven’t taught it. so we’re sort of left to fend for ourselves and learn it on our own somehow.
against a lot of resistance. yeah, there are a lot of forces working against men & women learning how to be friends. patriarchy, sexual weirdness, negative church-messages & our own default-toward-not-knowing-how-to-do-healthy-intimacy-with-other-people all get in the way. my friend dan brennan talks a lot about this in his work on cross-gender friendships.
one of the reasons I feel so deeply dedicated to healing & recovery & the beatitudes & the 12 steps & transformational opportunities is that as we keep growing individually as human beings we can learn to be better friends corporately. it is true that when we have hidden addictions & are saddled with shame and insecurity & honestly just never learned how-to-be-a-friend-or-have-a-friend, we really can’t do these kinds of relationships safely, unless there is help & guidance. there’s just too much baggage that gets in the way. but, if we can find avenues for healing, we can start to break free from unhealthy patterns and learn how to do relationships differently.
in so many ways, i think that’s the big, beautiful idea of the spiritual journey—to become a better friend to ourselves, to others & with God.
the world needs people who know how to be good friends.
i think that’s what we are trying to learn in the life of the refuge community together. it is bumpy. sometimes ugly. and often scary. men learning how to be friends with men, women learning how to be friends with women, and men & women learning how to be friends with each other. to stop being “over” or “under” another but learn to be “beside”. across ages, life experiences, faith experiences, socioeconomics & a host of other differences. sometimes people say that they feel like they are in grade school, maybe even pre-school, stumbling and bumbling through learning how to be friends.
i love that idea because i think that’s what “church” is supposed to be—a place to learn. Jesus school. a container to be challenged. a safe place to practice.
to me, in another weird paradox, even though it seems stumbly & bumbly like pre-school at times, it actually is graduate-level work. and oh, so beautiful! to learn to be friends, real friends, is no small task. walking persistently with humility & courage is grad school stuff. real friendship, as Jesus reminded us, is “laying down our lives.”
over and over we will be humbled. we will be challenged. we will be afraid. we will make mistakes. we will need to give grace. we will need to receive grace.
but hopefully we will also laugh at our pre-schoolness & celebrate our victories & keep listening, learning, and growing on the journey together. i am so thankful for all i continue to learn through these deeper, healthier, scarier relationships with men & women, too.
i really don’t think living in fear was ever the idea. i think Jesus sets us free from captivity; the question is whether we are brave enough to try to step into it.
God, help us be brave & teach us how to be friends.
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ps: my friend john martinez, one of the co-pastors of the distillery church in new york, is doing a summer teaching series on down we go. i love their community & am so glad we’re friends across the miles. here are some posts about it:
- making a diverse, paradoxical, interdependent, with chain
- the kingdom isn’t going to just drop out of the sky
- casey anthony, we are really just like her