Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Enduring Friendships

Mary Baker Eddy, in her autobiographical work, Retrospection and Introspection, has this to say about friendships:

     "There are no greater miracles known to earth than perfection and an unbroken friendship."

Of all the remarkable things that this 19th century thought leader has to say about relationships, this is one of the most promising...and demanding.

I don't know about the rest of you, but friendship is something that hasn't always come easily for me.  As a young woman it was not always easy for me to penetrate beyond the first moments of discovering what we had in common and sharing our dreams, to the deeper demands of following through on returning a phone call or NOT cancelling a "date" because "the guy" (of the hour or week or year) had something better (usually not) in mind.

What I had begun to call friendships were really acquaintances with whom I had, in a moment of self-revelation, shared some personal secret or dream or event with.  These were not really friendships, as I was to learn.  

Friendships are, above all else, enduring.  Just as it is easy to "fall in love" and much harder to "stay in love" is easier to find a "friend" than to be one worth keeping.   Friendship is, at least for me, as Eddy's is quoted above as saying, a great miracle.   It is a gift of discovery...and the discovery is more in what friendship has taught me about myself than the other person.  In fact, I don't know that you can ever really judge someone else as a friend because being a friend requires facing down the interior fences, boundaries, apathy, and laziness that only we can know we are breaking through.   The conditions of the heart, the "thus far and no farthers"  we think we can't go beyond.  If friendship were just about doing what it is that is fun, or enjoyable, or self-satisfying, there would be no miracle involved.  A miracle is that which is divinely natural, however humanly surprising.  Loving beyond what is easy and comfortable is divinely natural to us as "chidlren of God", but is surprising to us as humans who sometimes seek self-indulgence over the spiritual demands of growth in grace.  

My dearest friend is that person who has held my toes to the fire when I wanted to quit.  The person who demands that I live up to my true, loving self, even when I want to just be angry for a while.  My dearest friend is the one who tells me that my daughter is not my clone, but deserves the freedom to discover her own path rather than follow mine.  My dearest friend is the one who won't let me grouse or complain (even when I want to... so very desperately and even feel ever so justified in doing so) but reminds me of how much I have to be grateful for.  Eddy asks the question in her book
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "If a friend informs us of a fault, do we listen patiently to  the rebuke and credit what is said?"  She expected some very exacting care from someone who would be a friend.

It's taken me a long time to discover how rare a true, enduring, unbroken friendship is.  I've learned that not every "acquaintance" (no matter how lovely and wonderful the phone calls and lunches are) becomes a friendship.  I try to never miss the opportunity to return a phone call or respond to an email.  I have learned that this kind of vigilent persistence is a gift I give myself.  In doing so I open my life and my heart to someone else's life and in the concrescence of that moment something truly miraculous  We each give up something of ourselves, we surrender something we thought was ours alone to control and harbor...a moment in a busy day, a rigidly held opinion, a plan of action, resentment, fear...and allow someone else to demand that we revisit it from the perspective of that better self that a friend always expects us to be.

The tender care we devote to nurturing these blessed, God-appointed relationships is a gift of hope we give ourselves....our children, and the world.  To be persistent in finding common ground, to keep that unbroken which in today's world seems so fragile...this is a miracle that we have the opportunity of experiencing and witness each and everyday. 

If you are feeling like it's been a while since you've experienced a miracle in your life, pick up the phone and call a a what may seem to be broken and learn something about the breadth and depth of your own heart.   As Eddy also says, "One marvels that a friend can ever seem less than beautiful."   I think there is nothing so beautiful as the voice someone who knows you for who you are in God's eyes, not who you see in the mirror or in the eyes of the world.

Remember Eddy said, "There are NO [emphasis added] greater miracles known to earth than perfection and an unbroken friendship."   Not one of the great miracles, or a great miracle among many, but no greater miracle!  So whether discovering an unbroken friendship with your daughter, your husband, your neighbor or your former enemy is the adventure of the day...embrace it...I know of no better place to discover why the Lord's Prayer is all in the language of "our", "us" and "we" rather than, "I, me, and mine". 

Let today be the day that you discover "the greatest miracle known to earth"....I think Dan Seals says it beautifully, in his song from the mid 1980s called "One Friend" :

I always thought you were the best
I guess I always will.
I always thought that we were blessed
And I feel that way still.
Sometimes we took the hard road
But we always saw it through.

If I had only one friend left
I'd want it to be you.

Sometimes the world was on our side
Sometimes it wasn't fair.
Sometimes it gave a helping hand
Sometimes we didn't care.

'Cause when we were together
It made the dream come true.

If I had only one friend left
I'd want it to be you.

Someone who understands me
And knows me inside out.
Helps keep me together
And believes without a doubt,
That I could move a mountain
Someone to tell it to.

If I had only one friend left
I'd want it to be you.


  1. *smooches*

    one of ur friends,
    B mine 4ever,

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  4. A great tie of Life and Christian Science.. I found your blog from our common interest in Science and Health.

    I too have been in education.. from k-12 ...

    One of MBE's most prominient friendship ideas is ~'would life without friends be a vacuum...' The one who chose has a wonderful tone to it.

  5. Anonymous8:56 AM

    Dear Kate, Thank you for writing your ideas in "Unseen Thermals" . Especially meaningful is to pray with the thought that the hostages can know this presence of God, feel Her protection and "sitting quietly in the lap of the Father just to feel His arms around [them]..."