Finding a friend? Too easy. Friendship is everywhere. Click “Add Friend” and wait till you get the notice that your friendship request has been accepted! I must confess I currently possess 1,062 friends (and that’s just on Facebook). Ending friendships thus formed is even easier (you don’t even have to wait).
It’s debatable whether friendship everywhere is all that good for us. Especially when what passes as friendship these days is at best acquaintanceship. In ancient times, friendship captured something deeper. Greeks placed friendship in a garden of cultivated loves among affection, eros and agape! C.S. Lewis’ portrait of philia (friendship love) cast friendship love as humanity’s love of selection (as opposed to affection which comes easily even for pets, and as opposed to eros which requires a particular and exclusive context).
“Friendship is the least natural of loves, the least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious, and necessary. It is essentially between individuals; the moment two are friends they have in some degree drawn apart together from the herd. Without Eros, none of us would have been begotten and without Affection none of us would have been reared; but we can live and breed without Friendship. Affection and Eros are too obviously connected with our nerves. You could feel these tugging at your guts. But in Friendship – in that luminous, tranquil, rational world of relationships freely chosen- you got away from all that. This alone, of all the loves, seemed to raise you to the level of gods or angels.” The Four Loves p 74-75
Spiritual Friendship, then, is a particular kind of friendship. It can be thought of as the place where friendship meets soul-care. Author David Benner describes three ways to cultivate the space where spiritual friendship happens. First, there is an element of hospitality – creating a place of welcome that warms up the environment. For me and my friend Mike it was our common bond of high-test grade coffee. Every Tuesday morning for the 14 years we lived in the same town, one or the other would make coffee. One or the other would travel across town. We didn’t need food. We didn’t need a spotless drawing room. But it wouldn’t have happened without coffee. Having coffee meant Mike and Tim were ready to talk deeply about life. The second element according to Benner is presence. If two people striving for the presence of Jesus in everyday living connect in friendship, the decision to be fully present to each other means no pretense. No games. No projecting something different than what is really happening in our souls. Third and most importantly, spiritual conversation must happen. Opening up. Listening reflectively. Extending wisdom and empathy. Meeting Jesus together in what is shared. Waiting and praying and welcoming Jesus to be present and speak up.
Syntrek.blog is a place where we’ll explore how simple tools like hospitality, presence and conversation can build spiritual friendship. Spiritual Friendship isn’t less than a great friendship. But taken to the level of soul care syntrek partners can take unique strides together in pursuing Jesus. To wrap up this post, C.S. Lewis helps us affirm another unique characteristic of spiritual friendship. After going to pains to point out that friendship is the “least natural” and most optional of the four loves, he ends his chapter on philia by pointing out that ultimately it IS God who invisibly weaves our lives with others.
“But for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘ Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others.” The Four Loves p 113-114