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The Sacred Art of Being a Friend

February 4, 2004. 2/4/2004. That was the date an internet briar patch called Facebook sprang up on the World Wide Web. Remember the wonder and frightening delight of discovering people out there in the world you hadn’t seen live and in person in decades? And so, in the blink of an eye, we were hooked. On we went peeping through the windows of other people’s lives in search of some manner of connection. Minutes turned into hours. The occasional excursion turned into a daily obsession. We became consumed by the quest. How many Facebook Friends can we rack up today?

And seemingly overnight, a noun became a verb. Weird how we do that with our language, isn’t it? In religious circles, we once found ourselves within a fellowship of others, but more recently it’s something we do: we fellowship together. So too with friends. Persons. Human beings. Those we know even if only on the surface. Now we go about friending people. It has become something we do rather than someone we are. Have we lost sight of the sacred art of being a friend?

It is one of the greatest blessings of this precarious existence. To be a friend. To be the kind of person who cherishes, takes delight in, stands by, and supports others. Take a moment (preferably away from a screen) to consider the nature of friendship. What associations come to mind? Whose faces – real flesh and blood visages – surface? Which memories rise up and dance around?

As with much in this messy life, we learn the art of being a friend by having someone show us the ropes, and not necessarily intentionally. Observing, admiring, and experiencing another who practices the sacred art of being a friend makes an impression on us. We were never meant to navigate weaving the tapestries of our lives alone.

In the preface of her marvelous book Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day, Kate Bowler, who might have been smart and plucky before cancer but is certainly now wise in a way she wouldn’t have otherwise been, writes, “We cannot win this game of solitaire. Our churches and book clubs, bible studies, farmers’ markets, and our carpools and sport teams offer little reminders that we should need each other, borrow and lend money, babysit, and run an errand, argue and debate.” Yes, we should need each other. In the flesh and blood of our precarious existence. We would do well to practice the sacred art of being a friend.

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