We live in a world today of so many connections, but so little friendship. Social media links us as never before with hundreds of people who are only a click away – and yet study after study shows that we are lonelier than ever. While pondering this enigma recently, I came across the story in Scripture that tells us of the strong friendship that David enjoyed with Jonathan, long before he became king. I made three observations from their lives of how friendships are birthed and nurtured.
First, you must have shared space to find friends.
As David is drawn into King Saul’s court, he meets Jonathan his son, and the two of them hit it off at once. Life is filled with such places. We need to seek them and take advantage of them. If you’re the kind of person who never sticks around for coffee hour after church, or never signs up to join a small group, then don’t complain to God later on that you don’t have many friends at church. You have to physically be with people, in a shared space where conversations can occur, and from those interactions are planted the seeds of friendship.
I can’t wait till we get to heaven, and we start sharing actual space with people whom up till now we’ve only heard about. Right now I can’t be David’s friend, and I can’t be C.S. Lewis’ friend – but in eternity I’ll have an opportunity to drink a cup of tea with C.S. Lewis and jam on guitar with King David. Maybe I’ll get a tap on my shoulder, 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 take a walk down to the river and talk.”
So the first question to ask yourself: Are you sharing space with others?
Second, you must have shared experiences to find friends.
My future friend C.S. Lewis said: “Friendship is born the minute one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” David and Jonathan were both young warriors, with indomitable courage. David and Jonathan were both natural leaders – other men were drawn to them and rallied to be by their side. And as Saul becomes an increasing drama-queen, their friendship grew stronger as they struggled to decide how to respond.
Shared experiences have great potential to deepen friendships.
On paper at least, marriages should deepen over time, simply because of all that a husband and wife have shared together. One vet locks eyes with another and at once there’s a bond that few could understand. At the end of the Lord of the Rings movies, the four hobbits are together back in Hobbiton, sharing a drink after their indescribable adventures. No one else gets it. They’re surrounded by noise and people, but it’s as if they’re alone. They manage a smile and raise their glasses to each other, for all that they have shared together.
Start raising a glass of friendship to those you have shared experiences with.
But you can share space and experiences with someone yet still have the shallowest of relationships until you dare to open up your heart to them.
Third, you must share your soul to find friends.
David and Jonathan shared their deepest longings with each other. Their deepest fears. Their deepest needs. Jonathan has no problem talking to David about his father’s growing megalomania. David has no issue conveying to Jonathan the fears that he struggles with.
Men seem to struggle the most with this. Some have even suggested that David and Jonathan must be gay because of their closeness. But such thinkers are idiots, who have drunk the cultural kool aid which says a man to be a man must be tough, aloof and without emotion, and when we see something otherwise, Well you know it must be then…
So go ahead. Take the risk. Open up your heart to someone. Don’t keep your fears, needs, dreams and hurts to yourself. 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.”
You can have hundreds of friends on Facebook but that’s just window-dressing. A true friend will do more than toss you a ‘like’ every now and then. Proverbs 18:24 says “A man of many companions may come to ruin but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Those friends are out there. Why don’t you power down your computer or phone now and go find them?