Oswald Sobrino at Catholic Analysis has a great post on Christian friendship as seen through the eyes of St. Augustine. Though many hold friends dear, not too many of us consciously consider the role that friendship plays in our lives.
I spent much of my youth feeling out of step with my peers. That instilled a longing for meaningful relationships that God has used to good purpose as he has drawn me into Christian community. When I was about 20 (I remember exactly where I was walking when this occurred to me), I asked the Lord to give me good, solid friendships with good, solid people. Over time, this prayer has been answered in a huge way and is one of the richest aspects of my life.
As a woman, at least I had cultural expectations on my side. In North America, it's less common for men to consciously foster a network of individual friendships. Natural groups of "guys" come about through work or sports, perhaps there's a regular golfing buddy, but there aren't natural outlets for the men who (perhaps more than we guess) want -- well, what can I call it? The words "closeness" or "intimacy" have a girly or sexual overtone to them, don't they? Perhaps we need to take refuge in the vocabulary of "strength," "support," "authenticity." That's okay for a start, but if I were a man, I'd be angry that perfectly good words had been co-opted by the Ninny Underground.
I want the men in my life to have good men in their lives who encourage, accept, exhort, inspire and energize them. I want them to have somewhere (besides their boudoir, if they're married) where they're free to be absolutely honest without timidity.
When we go to live with God at the end of time, the things that are only part of this world are going to peel away. Our appetites, possessions, temptations; the synthetic pleasures that in our ignorance we have substituted for joys -- all of these will be gone in a flash. But I'm firmly convinced that our relationships will go with us, better than ever.
Love never ends. (1Cor 13:8)
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