Friendship is one of the most essential ingredients for living life well, yet so many struggle to find it. One of the most moving stories in the Bible is that of the friendship enjoyed by David and King Saul’s son Jonathan. Here’s how it’s described:
1 Samuel 18:1-4 – “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father’s house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”
Friendship can only incubate in an environment of closeness and commitment. We see here closeness. Jonathan ‘loved David as himself’. And commitment. “Jonathan made a covenant with David.” Friends do that – they offer things that symbolize their commitment. Pinkie swears. Blood oaths. Here it was Jonathan sharing with David his royal robe, and his weapons.
Spoiler alert! Fifteen years later when Jonathan is killed in battle, David writes a psalm in his honor, where he says, “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” (2 Samuel 1:26). This is a true, deep friendship – and no, in case it’s wondered: we are not meant to think that this was a homo-erotic relationship.
As I reflect on this story, I see in David and Jonathan’s friendship a number of things that serve as oxygen for it to breathe and grow. The first of these is a shared space.
Life just brings David and Jonathan together. Life is filled with places where people cross paths with each other, and this provides the soil from which a friendship can grow. Work, school, church, sports leagues, gardening clubs. Even “road marriage” – as my daughter calls it – that strange bond that occurs when you’re driving along the interstate for a long time and find yourself keeping company with a particular car or two.
Winnie the Pooh said it to Eeyore: “You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
If you’re the kind of person who never sticks around for coffee after church, then don’t complain to God later that you don’t have many friends at church. You have to be physically present with people, in a shared space where conversations can occur.
Life is filled with places where people cross paths with each other, and this provides the soil from which a friendship can grow.
In today’s world thanks to technology, shared space might be digital space. The computer provides incredible opportunity for meeting others. Video gaming, dating services, Skyping, social media are powerful ways to launch a friendship.
I can’t wait till we get to heaven, which will be the ultimate shared space. Right now I can’t be David’s friend, or C.S. Lewis’ friend – but in eternity I’ll have an opportunity to drink a cup of tea with C.S. Lewis and jam with King David, and maybe hear him actually sing one of his psalms. Maybe I’ll get a tap on my shoulder one day, and it’ll be a great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather of mine from a thousand years ago who’ll say, “I’ve been watching you, young man. Nice job. Let’s talk.”
So if friendships are hard to come by for you, here’s step one – get out of the house. Get away from yourself. Put yourself into the company of others. Take the risk, stick out your hand, introduce yourself and say, “So tell me about yourself.” Then go where the conversation leads you.