Friendships that Refresh the Soul (pt 1)
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
When I left for college, many teachers, family members and mentors gave me different words of advice.. some good and others that were not so good. One of the most common pieces of advice that I heard was along the lines of how these next 4 years were about to be the best years of your life and part of the reason for that is because college is where you meet your life long best friends. I kept hearing testimonies of this the week of orientation where every speaker and leader shared about creating forever friendships during the four years of college. I’m not sure if I believed it in the moment. To be honest, I wanted to believe it, but to fully trust what these people said felt like I was setting my expectations too high. I didn’t think about it too much. Most of my life before college, I wasn't very intentional with relationships. Growing up as a devoted athlete, I didn't have many opportunities to create deep friendships with my tennis community. We bonded over running sprints day in and day out but at the end of the week, I would see them at the opposite end of the court and it would always end with one of us walking away disappointed from losing and the other feeling awkward about beating your sort-of tennis friend. During school hours, I was shy and often was just waiting for school to be over so I can play tennis again. The point is, I didn't see the value in friendships and to have someone tell me I'll meet my future maid of honor and life bestie in college was a bit overwhelming.
Growing up in the church, I only knew 2 things to be true about biblical friendships. First, keep each other accountable. Second, love them as you would love yourself. These two things I still know to be true but you and I know that friendships don't start as easily as accountability and loving well. It takes time, energy and mutual commitment to grow and mend any relationship.
During my time at a Christian institution, I was shocked to learn that 70% of students felt moderate to very lonely. This truly opened my eyes to notice how many suffer from superficial relationships and identity gaps. As I sought to understand the root of loneliness part of what I came to realize was the importance of having a relationship with God. In fact, the biblical view of community can be understood through the works of Jesus Christ. He came to the earth and integrated himself with community. The gospels tell us that when he wasn't having time with God on the mountain, he spent his time with the people. From the richest Pharisees to the least of these and all of the in between. Understanding the life of Jesus can help us see that life is not meant to be done alone. Not only that, but our salvation in Jesus Christ is made complete through Christ's marriage to the Church. Simply said, God calls us to be part of his work on earth by calling us to be part of a community of believers. Jesus was the answer to God's plan to reunite us and God. When we accept Christ in our hearts it's an image of us saying "yes" to having a relationship with God. But we all know that you don't just agree to be friends with someone and throw in your back pocket afterwards. Part of our calling to be in relationship with God is to be part of his Church and other believers.
It's easy to forget that friendship is a gift from God. He is the source and encourager of community. Starting from the beginning of time, God created human beings in the likeness of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. "Let us make mankind in our image and in our likeness." (Genesis 1:26) Even God, who is all powerful and almighty chooses to be shown in a united community. For us to grasp God's intentions in friendship, we must cultivate and allow our relationship with Jesus Christ to be our ultimate “friendship goals” so we know how to succeed in having godly friendships. Without Jesus being the most important relationship in our lives, we will always miss the mark on what Godly friendships are meant to be. Over the next few posts, I will be doing a series on friendships and community in Christ. Stay tuned!