If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. ... You are my friends... -- John 15:7, 14a
Those words, "You are my friends," were in last Sunday's lectionary, and I read them as if for the first time. They have stuck with me all week long, bringing new meaning into my life in different ways.
It's been a challenging few weeks for me. There have been quite a few struggles, one after another. In the midst of discovering my own foibles in my children (as I have shared in the last two postings), I have also been struggling to figure out how to get along with the people in my life.
This latest struggle is the result of two currents in my life, one fairly constant and the other entirely new. The fairly constant stream is the fact that my husband and I often do not see eye to eye. It sometimes seems like we disagree more often than we agree. And though I love him and I know that he loves me, our disagreements often create great tension between us. The other, new stream is that I have recently joined several committees. One person jokingly said, "For God so loved the world, that he did not send a committee!" Let's just say, I get the joke.
I read once that friends are those who share the same understanding. The greater the synchronicity of interests and understanding, the greater the friendship. And I can see that this is true. My best friends are those with whom I have the most in common. But, after reading the words above, and hearing them in last Sunday's worship service, I wondered, "How would things change if I thought of even those people with whom I disagree fundamentally, as my friend?"
How, for example, would things change if I saw my husband as my friend instead of my opponent in the latest debate? And how would things change if I looked at everyone who comes into my life as my friend? I think it would change things tremendously. For one thing, even when I disagree with my friends, I do not want to fight with them, or turn away from them. I keep loving them, the same as always. There is a gentleness, an acceptance, and a kindness between us that never changes. And there is forgiveness. Our friendship overcomes our differences.
That was the first insight that came from the words above. But then came another insight.
What, I wondered, would happen if we saw God as our friend? As Jesus declares above: we are his friends; he chose us to be his friends. What if we understood that this was how God relates to us, as well?
I ask this question because I see many people who are distanced from God. They do not see God as a real presence in their lives. They believe that God is not "with them." Their belief comes from the fact that God has not answered their prayers or the prayers of others, as requested. Also, there is too much evil and cruelty and pain in the world. God cannot be present and allow all that to occur. If he does, then he is not any kind of God anyone wants to be associated with. The words of Jesus above -- "ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you" -- ring hallow for them.
I wonder if their understanding would change if they saw God as their best friend. After all, what does a best friend do when we call on them for help? He, or she, is there to offer us a listening ear, and a comforting shoulder, and to give us words of wisdom that will help us through the darkness. A best friend can accept our foibles with love. And sometimes the very best friend will look us in the eye, with great love, and tell us that we are full of b.s. This is how I experience God.
And, like my human friends, God does not make everything that is bad
disappear. Just as Jesus did not make everything bad disappear. Jesus
loved all that was bad, and continued to love it until the bad changed
to good. And this is what God does, too.
I also wonder
if thinking about God as our best friend would change the way we spend time with God. For friends to
remain friends, they each much treasure the friendship. They must seek
the other out and want to spend time together. They must abide in
spirit with each other even though great physical distance separates them. There is more give than take, in lasting friendships.
God loves as Jesus loved. God loves you and me, and if we reciprocate this love, we learn all that God wants us to learn. This is his gift to us. We are taught all that we need to know for a life of great joy. The key to this life of joy is to turn to God as if to the greatest friend we have ever known.
Dear God, may your friendship become a reality in the lives of all people. Open our eyes and hearts to the inspiration of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Love always, Pam