Meditation Monday – Thriving on Connections

by Christine Sine

by Christine Sine

Last week, Tom and I were in San Francisco and I am still living in the glow of the friends we visited. Some of them we have known for over 50 years. The gaps in time melted away as we pick up where we left off 10 or more years ago. There is nothing like a good friendship revived after many years. Ii is a little like enjoying an expensive vintage wine that has been bottled and kept in the dark until it is at its best. All these friendships are special and their impact on our lives is profound. As we chatted to some of the younger people we got together with however, I realized how lucky we are. They crave close friendships but find them elusive and often frustrating.

We all need friends. Close connections to others give us joy, comfort and support. They provide companionship as we walk the twists and turns of life and help us grow into the people God intends them to be. Celtic Christians called special friendships that were both friends and spiritual directors “soul friends” or “anamcara” In her book Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World, Lynne Baab gives one of the best definitions of friendship I have heard. She equates the characteristics of friendship to those of love described in 1 Corinthians 13.

The characteristics of friendship that have endured through the ages – loyalty, affection, sympathy and understanding – are echoed in 1 Corinthians 13. The patience and kindness of real love undergirds the kind of sympathy and empathy that makes friendships work. Refraining from envy, boasting and arrogance lays a foundation for the find of loyalty and affection that has always been valued in friendship. Rudeness and affection are often opposites, so keeping rude words out of our mouths helps us express affection in a more believable way. To feel and convey understanding for another, we need to let go of our own way, and we need to hold back on being irritable and resentful.

It’s true. Friendship is based on love with good doses of forgiveness, acceptance and gratitude thrown in. And at the heart, I find, is a need for prayer. It doesn’t mean that all our friends need to be people of faith, but it certainly helps when we share this important value.

Recognition of the need for friendship goes right back to the creation of Adam and Eve. God created Adam then realized it was not good for him to be alone and created Eve as a fitting companion. Throughout the scriptures, prominent figures seem to have depended on friendship. Some, like Job are even known as “friends of God” (Job 1:8) As well as that, Moses had his brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, David had Jonathan and Jesus had his disciples, though his closes friends seem to have been Mary Magdalene and the apostle John. As we read their stories we are aware of the love that cemented them together and sustained them even after their physical connections were broken.

Probably my favourite biblical verse on friendship is Proverbs 25: 11-13 from The Message

The right word at the right time
    is like a custom-made piece of jewelry,
And a wise friend’s timely reprimand
    is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.

Reliable friends who do what they say
    are like cool drinks in sweltering heat—refreshing!

Friendships are often forged in the midst of hardship. That was certainly the case for me. My closest friends are still the women I roomed with when I first came to the mercy ship Anastasis. Over the years we have shared many joys and sorrows. We have struggled through disagreements and challenges, (yes there have been reprimands) but we have always come back to the solid foundation of love and mutual respect that is at the heart of our friendship.  My husband Tom calls them “my sisters in combat” because it was the hardships of times on the ship in those early days that really laid the foundations for us. And we are closer now than we ever were. We come from three different countries and now live in three different parts of the U.S. but we continue to grow together. As I reflect on the specialness of this friendship, Ecclesiastes 4:12 comes to mind A cord of three strands is not easily broken. Every friendship is like a threefold cord. It may only involve two people but always in the background there is that third strand of God’s presence that weaves together the other strands in love and companionship.

A few years ago I wrote this special prayer as a tribute to our sisterhood.

A cord of three strands
Is not easily broken,
And God has made us one.
As sisters we have walked the path,
Through seasons light and dark.
With joy and laughter we have shared,
The warmth of heart and home.
United in the One,
United by the Three,
One strand of friendship,
We enjoy,
Through all life’s seasons blessed.

(Christine Sine 2018)

Other friendships date back to those days too. One of the friends I got together with on my recent trip to San Francisco., together with her husband and myself, formed the medical team on the Anastasis in the early 80s. Our friendship was solidified through many hours of hard work renovating the hospital, and more hours of prayer as we struggled to birth the ministry that is still the heart of Mercy Ships. Other friendships have followed and the best of those too were cemented through the joys and struggles we share. I read somewhere once: Strangers are friends waiting to happen, and I think it’s true. Every stranger we meet has the potential to become a friend.

Today it seems easier to nurture these friendships because of zoom calls, Facebook photo sharing and regular emails. Even when we are far away, we feel close because of these connections. Through my work and ministry I have friends and connections around the world, some of whom I have never met. However these kinds of interactions seem to require more effort, more intentionality to move our interactions from casual acquaintance to friendship sharing events. I love that one of my Canadian friends always takes the opportunity after I have shared some of my photos on Facebook to set up a zoom call for more interaction. That kind of intentionality has really strengthened our friendship.

At this season, writing letters, making phone  zoom calls is a great way to stay in touch or renew friendship with friends who may not be as close but who are equally important to us. We need both close and more distant friends just as we observed in Jesus’s life. We need connections to sustain and give us life.

As you prepare for thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas, take time to reflect on your own friendships. Which ones need strengthening? Which ones need renewing? Which ones need nurturing? How could you make sure this happens in the days leading up to Christmas?

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