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I Have Called You Friends (John 15:15)

Charity Hill

Friendship is not extra. It is not optional for the Christian. It is particularly crucial to the Christian woman. Perhaps you’re already nodding. Perhaps you’re even thinking of the faces of the women who form your Walking with Purpose community, remembering how those women acted as “an elixir of life” to you (Sirach 6:16).

But what if you’re not at this point? What if you…well, don’t really have any “bosom friends”? What if you’ve expended all your relational energy with your children or at work? You feel the press of immediate needs and don’t think it would be responsible to step away. Isn’t it more likely that having friends is something you do with leftover time?

At the Last Supper with the disciples, Jesus stresses to them what was most important to Him: communion. Jesus immerses His disciples in the reality that communion with the Father and one another is the meaning of life. In John’s Gospel, Jesus expresses His unity with us as the true Vine, in whose love we are to remain. Jesus says, “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). Jesus, who is the Word of the Father, has told us—shared with us—all. He wants us not to remain on the outside of things but to know the logic of love from within, through participating in it. 

The Lord has designed you and destined you for intimate participation in love. This participation is called “communion,” and the entire Christian life has communion as its aim. You have come from a communion of love—the Trinity—and you are destined for communion—the communion of saints, the communion of the Trinity. You are not the best version of you, you are literally not yourself, alone. To be you, to be a person, is to be in communion.[1] This is why friendship is not extra but essential.

For a while, I forgot this, and I forgot who I was in a basic way. I was fully immersed in survival—moving four times in 5 years, having twins, homeschooling older children—I had no bandwidth to be concerned with anyone outside my immediate family. The intensity of my insularity was ugly but nearly invisible to me. During this time, my eldest daughter signed up for a musical theater production of The Wizard of Oz. This commitment necessitated that I volunteer for 12 hours. As I walked into the wings, I thoroughly resented the coerced volunteering, certain I was more put-out than any other mom because I had to bring three other children with me—who sat under tables in Hair and Makeup. Thirty minutes later, I was not the same woman who had started applying makeup. I was electrified. Coming home from productions at 10 p.m., I couldn’t sleep until I’d told my husband about every meaningful conversation I had with each mom, munchkin, and monkey. There was a lot to tell! On the third night of the show, I was nearly shouting at my husband: “I’m an extrovert! I can’t believe I forgot I was an extrovert!” And let me tell you, the man behind the curtain in this moment was the Lord.

He lifted the curtain of my heart revealing to me that “[Wo]man cannot live without love. [S]he remains a being that is incomprehensible for [her]self, [her] life is senseless, if love is not revealed to [her], if [s]he does not encounter love, if [s]he does not experience it and make it [her] own, if [s]he does not participate intimately in it.”[2] Woman is the one who is especially characterized by making room for another in her intimate spaces—her body, home, mind, family, and social groups. Our feminine genius disposes us to recognize and affirm the humanity, the goodness of the other. This is why the world needs women in order to be properly humanized. 

Of course, a woman can live this “genius” for people without being gregarious, but sometimes a hyperbole, like myself, makes a good illustration. One of the next things I did after rediscovering that I loved people, especially women, was to form a Well-Read Mom book club. At our first meeting, we could barely summon the courage to repeat the novel’s basic plot-points—and I was relieved when the ladies went home. Ouch. But, by our last meeting, we were disagreeing with each other over different interpretations and laughing about it. It was as if we had awakened—after being asleep—to our deepest questions. And if literature and fiction helped us awaken to our questions and desires, is it surprising that nearly the same exact women who’d formed the book club formed our first WWP Bible study group?

In making friends as a grownup, I learned that friendship expresses principles of Christ’s own affection for me. Friendship is a form of communion, where we meet Christ's own love for us. This is why friendship is not extra for the Christian. 

  • Friendship reminds me that I am not alone, but that love is at the core of my identity.
  • Friendship is a mirror. Friendship reminds me of who I am. My friends refuse to see me as the sum of my weaknesses and failures. They literally tell me, “I see that you are more than that.” 
  • Friendship reminds me that I am acceptable, that I am lovable. Acceptance liberates me to face the truth about myself, the full truth about who God has made me to be.
  • Friendship reminds us that love is gratuitous and surprising. God gives us to one another and He knows what will bless us. Some friends you wouldn’t have picked for yourself are given to you as gifts. 

In the next few days, ask the Lord to show you why friendship matters so much to Him. Then, step forward in faith. Perhaps you can simply start by adding a friend-event to your calendar. Perhaps you could shift your energy from social media friendships to one or two actual, embodied friendships. Perhaps you could revisit Jodi Dauses’ encouragement to take the first step in repairing a faltering friendship. Dare to believe that Jesus desires the joy of friendship for you, that His “joy may be in you and your joy may be perfect” (John 15:11).

[1] Pope John Paul II, “General Audience November 14, 1979,” Vatican.va, https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/audiences/1979/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_19791114.html. (See also, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio, https://www.communio-icr.com/articles/view/concerning-the-notion-of-person-in-theology.)
[2] Pope John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, section 10, March 4, 1979, Vatican.va, https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_04031979_redemptor-hominis.html.

About the author:
Charity Hill lives in the Austin area with her husband and four children, but she really dwells with them at the intersections of theology, literature, and laundry. Charity produces her children’s literature podcast Bright Wings: Children’s Books to Make the Heart Soar. At Bright Wings, Charity ponders what makes a book worth reading and wonders how children’s literature can help save the world.

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