Called to Friendship

Before spring break, the thing God was teaching me the most was about friendship, both with Jesus and the people around me. Not sending me out to make more friends or build more community, but really fine-tuning the relationships I already had. When break finished and we learned we wouldn’t be regathering for this year, my immediate thought was “okay God, what’s next for us?” But He stopped me and very gently reminded me, “Steph, just because life has taken an unexpected left turn, doesn’t mean that we are.”

I’m going to dive into the importance of friendship in this season, but before I do that I want to sit on this word. Just because life has taken an unexpected left turn, doesn’t mean that we are. God is not surprised by the things that are happening in the world right now. Life looking different than we expected, doesn’t mean that we should completely drop the place we were with Him and find new ground. We get to pick up right where we left off with Him before all of this mess, and continue letting Him speak to us. There’s a good chance He’s actually going to use our current situation to give us even greater insight into what He’s teaching us. Just because our lives have suddenly changed, doesn’t mean God has.

Anyway, back to friendship. I’ve always been one to put a lot of effort and weight into my friendships. Even before I knew Jesus, I took my friendships very seriously. So, when I did come to know Jesus, the easiest way for me to relate to him was through friendship. It clicked. It made sense. If you’ve never pressed into Jesus as a friend, I highly encourage you to do so. It’s so so important for us to have friendship with Jesus.

Where do we start? How do we have friendship with Jesus? Like most questions, the answer is scripture. While the gospels tell the story of Jesus’ life, they’re told through the lens of his best friends. When we read through the gospels, we see that the apostles weren’t just students of Jesus, but they were his best friends. He doesn’t just teach them, but they do life together. They pray together, eat meals together, do ministry together, confide things in each other, and just exist together. There is trust, love, and enjoying each other’s company. They are best friends. When they mess up, Jesus calls them higher. They fight for one another and pray to God on the other’s behalf. They are best friends.

This is what we get to have with Jesus if we let him in as our best friend. We pray to God with the knowledge of Jesus as our friend and our fear and doubt is broken off, we invite Jesus into meal times and our conversations are fruitful because of his presence, we do ministry and work with him so that we may produce fruit. We trust him, and he trusts us. We love him, and he loves us. We can confide in him, enjoy his company, and just exist with him. We get to be his best friend. A friendship that extends beyond our religion, and into our day in and day out routines. In the day to day, we get to talk to Jesus throughout the day, the same way we text our best friends updates throughout our days of our embarrassing moments or funny stories. Jesus doesn’t just want our heavy, he wants the things that make us laugh too.

In this time, when everything is uncertain, Jesus is still certain. The gospel is still certain. God is unchanging. So now, maybe more than ever, it’s important to embrace Jesus as our best friend. Our lives don’t make sense, so we should do life with the only one who does make sense: Jesus. I encourage you to invite him into your day to day, especially now when there may be a lack of structure and clarity in the day to day. Just do life with him. Talk to him throughout the day. Share with him the things that make you smile, and the moments you feel sad. He’s ready and waiting to show up for you. And friendship with him is so much sweeter than we can imagine. It can be easy for us to feel cut off from the church when we are stuck at home, but we aren’t cut off from Jesus. He’s just as present now as he’s ever been.

Shifting gears a little bit, what does this mean for our friendships with the people in our lives? Like I mentioned earlier, I take friendship very seriously. In my opinion, it’s one of the sweetest gifts from God. He could’ve called us to do life alone, with Him only, but He didn’t. He gives us the gift of friendship, and not only does He give us the gift, He calls us to it. Being in friendships, being in community, it’s literally an act of obedience. We are called to live like Jesus, and like I pointed out, Jesus had friends. He lived his life alongside his best friends the way we are called to.

For a long time, I thought I had friendship figured out. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have my fair share of flaws, but I knew how to show up and love well most of the time. Not perfectly, but decently. And I would love my friends from a place of loving like Jesus as best as I could, but in my mind friendship with Jesus was one category, and friendship with my friends was another. Spoiler alert: they can’t be separate. We don’t have our religious lives and our secular lives. We have one life. And we’re called to live it the way Jesus lived his, as closely as we can.

So, this semester God started teaching me how to model my friendships after my friendship with Jesus. This has looked like a lot of different things, but I think the biggest thing is loving people the way they receive love. Jesus’ love for each of us is different. He loves us in accordance to who we are as individuals. His love for us is individual, unique, and personal. There isn’t a mold or outline for how it looks. It looks how we each receive it the best. I challenge you to start loving your friends the same way. To find out how they feel loved, the things that mean the most to them, the ways they feel the most supported and do those things because you love them.

Now is not a time to press pause on our friendships. It’s a time to press into them. Wherever you are for the rest of the semester: at home with your family, with your roommates, maybe by yourself, I still urge you to invest heavily in your friendships. Call your people, FaceTime them, write them letters in the mail, text them. Get creative. Find out how they feel loved the most, and find a way to do that from a distance. We may be isolating ourselves physically, but that doesn’t mean we have to mentally and emotionally. Check in on your people, and be honest with them when they check in with you.

When I learned we wouldn’t be back for the rest of the semester, I thought my season with God of learning about friendship had come to an end because I was distant from my friends. I was wrong. This is just the next challenge to overcome. God wouldn’t call us into community if it weren’t important and vital for our spiritual health, and because God calls us to it nothing--not even social distance, can get in the way of it. Continue to seek Jesus as a friend, and to confide in him. But also continue to confide in your friends. It’s important. Tell them where you are spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically. Learn to love each other individually and personally, even from a distance. Staying connected with each other reminds us we’re still human, and that we still have a life outside of this mess.

Over the past week, my investment in my friends has looked different, but different doesn’t have to mean bad. Our conversations have been sweet because we’re no longer taking them for granted. Our contact has been more intentional because it has to be. I’ve missed them deeply, but still, God has been whispering to me daily, “Don’t let the distance be a hindrance. Let it be a new launching point.” Things may be harder now, but let the difficulty be a chance for growth. Let it teach you to be a better friend because when push came to shove, you were the one who still recognized the importance of friendship in this season. You were the one who still found a way to show up.

Author | Stephanie Stewart

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