August 9, 2020
“Behold, I call you friends,” Jesus. ~ John 15:15.
“Who finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure.” ~ Jewish saying.
I pushed the play button on the blinking answering machine. The calm recorded voice said, “Hello Craig and Jennifer; this is Chris. Charlotte and I are coming down your way probably the first week of August with our kids. We’d love to see you; give us a call.”
Chris and Charlotte Holden-Carr. Voices from the past connected with so many memories of the early years of our marriage. How long have we known each other? Twenty years? Twenty-five? Thirty? We were all so young and green, full of idealism and hope. We knew each other B.K. (before kids).
Chris was the minster of the Meeker U.M.C. when we lived there. Charlotte, his wife, joined him a couple of years later. We cut and decorated Christmas trees together, we had summer picnics with cheeseburgers and fresh potato salad. We worked together butchering hogs for our church’s annual 4th of July BBQ. We fasted during Lent. We philosophized about life, marriage, parenting, and all things of God. No topic was off limits.
During this time after Jennifer and I had two children (A.K.: after kids), we hit a very rough patch in our relationship. We had two young children who needed our love and support at home and our future as a couple was in doubt. Chris stopped us outside church one evening and in that calm voice asked, “What’s going on with you two? I’m hearing things.”
We started pointing at each other and making accusations. Chris held up his hands and asked us to stop. “All I know is both of you are good people.” He pulled out his tattered wallet and took out all the money he had, four crumpled up dollar bills. “Here take this and go get a Coke or some ice cream and I’ll watch the kids.” “We don’t have time.” “Your relationship is important, just take thirty minutes to talk.”
That small random act of kindness kept us together for another day. The next month, Charlotte offered us her support. “Love is like a teeter totter. You have to find your balance and meet in the middle sometimes.” We laugh about this to this very day, but we remember if we live on the outside edge of our own perspective, we will never see the other person’s point of view. Good friends help us find our balance, our center, our way in life. They remind us of who we are.
Irish poet and priest John O’Donohue writes, “In everyone’s life, there is a great need for ‘anam caras,’ soul friends. In this love, we are understood as we are without mask or pretension.” We are free to be who we really are without fear of judgment or condemnation. Friendship allows “understanding to dawn.” When we really feel understood says Donohue, we feel free to release ourselves into the trust of the other person’s soul. Anam caras (soul friends) are God’s gifts to us.
When the exiled woman meets Jesus at noon by the well, they have a long conversation about her entire life. He does not condemn or judge the life she has lived; instead, He offers her living water. The woman is so excited she leaves her water jar and runs and tells everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” (John 4:29).
Is it possible for our Creator, our God, our Alpha and Omega to be our soul friend?
Jesus says, “Behold, I call you friends (John 15:15). “In friendship with Him, we enter the tender beauty and affection of the Trinity. In the embrace of this eternal friendship, we dare to be free,” says O’Donohue.
Friendship is the nature of God. Let’s roll that around in our minds, our hearts, our souls. “Friendship is the nature of God.” With God we can share our innermost thoughts and feelings and know that God will hold our joys and disappointments and our successes and our failures in a divine space. “Only friendship can save us,” says Father Ronald Rolheiser.
Jennifer and I have been at Mancos United Methodist Church for sixteen years. That’s a long time in one place, especially for a minister. I sometimes ask myself, “Am I getting complacent? Should I move on down the road?” I do not know the answer to that question, but I do know why we stay.
Father O’Donohue says, “Friendship (anam cara) is the threshold where divine and human presence ebb and flow into each other.” We are free to be who we are in Christ, holy and broken at the same time. We pat each other on the back, we pick each other up, we fight and get mad at each other, we forgive, heal, and reconcile. Friendship endures through all the peaks and valleys of life. Friendship knows our darkness but does not run from it. Friendship holds us in a sacred space. Soul Friends help us move beyond our self-righteousness, anger, and resentment. Friendship hopes against hope.
Blessings and peace to you, my friends,
How might we grow and nurture soul friendships in our lives?