The Art of Friendship – revisited

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was part of a book launch team for the book “Messy Beautiful Friendship”. Well, the book has launched, and now I’m “launching” my book review.

Christine Hoover, the author, is a pastor’s wife in Charlottesville, VA. In God’s providence, I was once a pastor’s wife in Virginia, and Christine and I had the chance to correspond over email. We’ve not kept in touch personally throughout the years, but I do read her blog. So, I was excited when she mentioned that she was writing a book on friendship. I was happy to sign up to be on her launch team and read her book.

I appreciate Christine’s uninhibited style of writing. She is honest about her failures and humble about her success. Most importantly, she grounds all of what she has to say not in her own experience, but in the Scriptures. If we are to discover what real friendship is, as Christians, we must look to what the Bible says friendship ought to be.

As someone who has moved six times in my 13 years of marriage, I know how challenging it can be to make friends. Even finding a casual acquaintance can be intimidating – especially for those of us who are more introverted in nature. But finding deep, lasting, godly, life giving friendship? Sometimes that seems like an impossibility.

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What is Friendship?

Christine looks at some of our misconceptions about what friendship is and then lays out a biblical vision for true friendship. She posits that we often find ourselves dissatisfied with our current friendships because we don’t have an accurate understanding from the Bible of what friendship should be. She says:

When I am disappointed with my friendships and I take time to dig a little deeper in my heart, I inevitably find that I’m looking for my friends to relate to me as only God can. I want God to give me good friends, and when he has, I’ve been prone to shove him aside for the attention, wisdom, and companionship of those friends, despite knowing that they were intended as gifts rather than replacements. People are not fillers for a present God, and God is not a placeholder for future friends. (Messy Beautiful Friendship, p. 38)

All too often, I find that to be true. I’d rather have the “perfect” friendship here and not rely upon the eternal friendship I have with Christ. I want to see friendship as a gift from God. But the challenge to me is not to love the gift more than I love the Giver.

friendship

Threats to Friendship

She also then examines some of the threats to developing deep and lasting friendships. In her final sections she offers some practical wisdom and insightful challenges to us as we seek out friendships that honor Christ. I especially appreciated her chapter entitled “Faithful Wounds” about speaking the truth in love. Unfortunately, our culture has adopted the idea that to love someone means you never disagree with them, and thus would never have a need to confront them. However, the Bible teaches that “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.” (Prov. 27:5) It is precisely because we love our friends that we will confront them when we see them wandering from the truth.

I highly recommend Christine’s book. Even if you are a person who makes friends easily, it can be a helpful reminder of what biblical friendship is. The book is a quick and relatively easy read. She even includes some discussion questions in the back of the book. I think the book quite readily lends itself to being a selection for a ladies book club.

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As I am facing yet another move, I find myself grieving the leaving of my current friends and feeling anxious about making new ones. What a comfort to know that I already have “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Tell me a story of one of your dear friends. Or share a picture of you with your friends! I’m always encouraged by hearing how God has blessed you. And if you happen to pick up a copy of Christine’s book, let me know what you think.

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The Art of Friendship

Webster defines friendship as “the state of being friends”. Unless we are clear on what a friend is, that definition is not particularly helpful. Webster here provides a more helpful definition of “one who is attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion“. So we can say that friendship then is the state of being attached to another by affection or esteem; having favored companions.

Think for a moment about the friendships in your life – what affection or esteem attaches you to those individuals? What is it that links our lives with the lives of others? Paul Cézanne painted a series of paintings called “The Card Players” that visually explores some of these connections.

 

art of friendship

Here, we see two gentlemen engrossed in a card game. There is no money on the table, thus indicating that they are not gambling but are simply engaged in a friendly game of cards. The background is ill-defined, perhaps because it doesn’t matter where they are, or perhaps to further place these men in the spotlight of the painting.

In other works in the series, the crowd of men grows:

art of friendship

And in one, even a child is included:

art of friendship

In all of these paintings, the card players themselves are the focus. How long have they gathered to play cards? Why do they gather to play cards? Cézanne used local farmhands, some of whom worked on his family farm, as his models for these paintings (and numerous sketches that were completed prior to the paintings. The relationships between these men may have been little more than co-workers, yet here we see them spending time together, sharing a mutual affection for cards. So is this friendship?

I often hear folks make a distinction between “friends” and “acquaintances”, in order to clarify that simply knowing a person and being in proximity to them does not guarantee a friendship exists. As someone who has moved several times in my married life, I definitely agree that just knowing people doesn’t mean I have a friendship with them. I might even play cards with them, but friendship, that requires something more – more time, more effort, more risk.

What is Friendship?

I was recently invited to be part of a launch team for a new book by Christine Hoover entitled Messy Beautiful Friendship. I’ve only just begun reading the book and I’m excited to see what she has to say. She begins with crafting a new definition of friendship – one that requires us to let go of our assumptions that friendship is really just about me and finding people with whom I “click.” But what if friendship wasn’t about me and what I gain from it? What if developing friendships was more like creating art – more about the process and the delight of the recipient and less about my own needs and insecurities? Can we even conceive of what that might look like?

The book just released on the 18th of April, and I’m eagerly trying to finish it. Stay tuned for another post once I’m done. In the meantime, tell me about some of your most treasured friendships – what is it that makes them so valuable?

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