“Life-natural life- has no better gift to give. Who could have deserved it?”
– C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 275.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
– Proverbs 27:17
Kids know it best. When we find ourselves confronted as it were by numerous other children amongst numerous playground activities, life can seem daunting. Until you find a friend. Then, instead of being played by your sometimes awkward, often unforgiving life, life becomes your playground. Adventures appear in the deepest wood, stories unfold around simple things, and because of your friend, time and life become a little sweeter.
Friendship springs from the ground when you find that person who brings forth an astonished exclamation: “‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one,'” (269). Our friendships are never about friendship as such, but “must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travelers,” (270). It is when we find this person with a similar interest, though they may be leagues apart from ourselves on a myriad of other interests and issues, that all things fade away, and a relational cement hardens which can rarely be undone, though time and space between us increase year after year.
I’ve had a number of close friends in my life, though they can be counted on one hand. It is an interesting thing that, for me, the strongest cement between my closest friends and myself has been a mutual love for the things of the Lord. My earliest friend and I, though worlds apart in our musical tastes, dress codes, candy preferences, and family situations, became as brothers over the truths of Christianity. He was, and remains (though life has separated us over wide distances) a fellow traveler. The Christian journey is, in fact, the most profound and most important of journeys, and to find a weary but hopeful soul walking beside you becomes a greater source of joy and strength than any other type of friendship.
In every situation, whether it be a road trip, an evening over coffee, a time of confession and repentance, a discussion over books or hot-button issues, or a brief talk after months of unintentional silence, the uninterrupted time with a friend is nothing less than a spiritual moment. This moment transcends the confines of death and decay, of our enslavement to minutes and seconds, and propels its participants into a sense of eternity, where time flies because time doesn’t exist: “Those are the golden sessions; when four or five of us after a hard day’s walking have come to our inn; when our slippers are on, our feet spread out towards the blaze and our drinks at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freeman and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us,'” (275).
I have seen more of the Lord in the faces of my friends and have been more challenged in my own journey by the journeys of my brothers; because of friendship, humanity is made more human in its original sense, and God is made a little more tangible. Friendship “is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him…At this feast is it He who has spread the board and it is He who has chosen the guests,” (289).
Perhaps part of the sharpening which occurs between friends is a sharpening which happens as we behold more and more of the wonder, complexity, and richness of creature and finally Creator, making us step back and marvel, kneel and thank. We are sometimes more engaged in the worship of our God when with our closest friends we are talking over food and drink, praying together, and suffering through and enjoying life as it comes to us. Friends are gifts, and I’m so thankful for mine.