A friend of mine recently suggested that I ask God to personalize a meditation for me … to pick up either the Bible or some spiritual author and start flipping the pages until I feel my spirit move.
This morning was the first time I tried it. I picked up one of my favorite books, Henri Nouwen’s “The Inner Voice of Love.” I opened the book to one of his reflections called “Be a Real Friend.” It was exactly what I needed.
I’ve been writing/speaking about friendships a lot lately because I’ve really been struggling with some of mine. It’s a result of building boundaries, like I said in my video, and expecting more from some of my friendships than I did in the past. When I feel like I’m being used or exploited in some way, I get out, instead of sitting still for fear of making waves. I still hate waves, of course. I’m still largely a people-pleaser, but I think I respect and love myself a bit more than I did even a year ago, and so that change is reflected in some of my relationships.
Henri Nouwen’s meditation helped me to make sense of these transitions, and assess, once more, what, exactly, I want in a friendship. Maybe his words will do the same for you.
Friendship has been a source of great pain for you. You desired it so much that you often lost yourself in the search for a true friend. Many times you became desperate when a friendship you hoped for didn’t materialize, or when a friendship begun with great expectations did not last.
Many of your friendships grew from your need for affection, affirmation, and emotional support. But now you must seek friends to whom you can relate from your center, from the place where you know that you are deeply loved. Friendship becomes more and more possible when you accept yourself as deeply loved. Then you can be with others in a non-possessive way. Real friends find their inner correspondence where both know the love of God. There spirit speaks to spirit and heart to heart.
True friendships are lasting because true love is eternal. A friendship in which heart speaks to heart is a gift from God, and no gift that comes from God is temporary or occasional. All that comes from God participates in God’s eternal life. Love between people, when given by God, is stronger than death. In this sense, true friendships continue the boundary of death. When you have loved deeply, that love can grow even stronger after the death of the person you love. That is the core message of Jesus.
You have to trust that every true friendship has no end, that a communion of saints exists among all those, living and dead, who have truly loved God and one another. You know from experience how real that is. Those you have loved deeply and who have died live on in you, not just as memories but as real presences.
Dare to love and to be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as to those whom God has given you to love.