“What is a friend?” the ancient philosopher Aristotle once asked. His answer? A friend is “a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” Friends are those people with whom who you can just be yourself, you can go to when you’re in a pinch (knowing they will do whatever they can to help), and those with whom you can let it all out, without pretense, without reservation. Why? Because you know they love you, they have your back, and they are with you.
In The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis wrote, “Friendship has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” Friends make surviving in this world all the sweeter.
But true friends are hard to come by. Shakespeare wrote, “Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.”And it’s true. Oftentimes, especially for pastors. It’s not always easy to develop friendships that develop into deep, rooted relationships. I’ve realized is that pastoral ministry can be lonely, even isolating.
Generally, pastors live in glass houses, which can lead us not to trust others easily or develop the deep friendships that God intends for us to have. An older, much wiser pastor once gave me the invaluable advice to find a true friend with whom I can share my heart and vent, without judgement. This pastor encouraged me to find someone, preferably, that was not one of my laity. This turned out to be invaluable advice that I needed to hear. We were built for community and friendship. Yes, even us, pastors.
Jesus had friends. In John 15, Jesus tells his disciples that they are not servants of God, but friends of God. Essentially, he says to them: “I’ve told you guys everything. You’re my friends! I love you guys! So now go love others.”
If even Jesus had friends, shouldn’t we make an effort to have friends too?
So, I encourage you, if you have not done this already, to find someone you trust, who understands and loves you, and develop a friendship with this person. Take time to meet regularly. Talk about life with him or her. Vent to your friend, celebrate with them, and weep with them. Friendship takes intentionality and vulnerability, but it’s of utmost importance. (Side note: your spouse does not count! Of course he or she is your best friend (hopefully!), but we all need a friend of the same sex to whom we can confide.)
When we take the time to develop a friendship we ensure a healthy spirituality in our own lives. When we find a true friend there a deep spiritual connection develops – like two instruments playing in the same key. You know that someone else completely trusts you and completely respects you for who you are. And you have that mutual trust and respect for them. It truly is a beautifully vital song to have playing in our lives.
Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so does one person sharpen another.” So as pastors and those in pastoral leadership, let’s vow to get sharp together and find a friend.