Intimate Friendship

Kinship In The Age of Social Media

I was challenged a couple of weeks ago to not discuss friendship in the abstract or generically, but to “get into the personal particulars” of true friendship.

Diving deep into friendship can be tough. But let’s do it anyway.

In discussing true intimate friendship, a couple of great examples come immediately to mind. The first being the Apostle Paul and his relationship with Timothy. The second being The Inklings (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams).

Wise Circle Alli Worthington

photo credit: Alli Worthington

The word “intimate” is so often attached to a sexual relationship today. I believe it skews our thinking of how deep a relationship can be with the sexual aspect being included.

Here are a couple of definitions from Merriam Webster online.

NOUN
:a very close friend or confidant :  an intimate friend

ADJECTIVE
:having a very close relationship : very warm and friendly : very personal or private : involving sex or sexual relations
As you can see, sex and sexual relations are only a very small part of the definition. I personally love the idea of “confidant” as it relates to an intimate friendship.

The Inklings were certainly confidants of each other. Four men meeting frequently to discuss their ideas and writings. I think most importantly to discuss the ideas and writings they were working on. It is difficult for a writer to share the inner workings of creating a book. Writing is very personal. It comes from the depths of the soul. I believe this is even more valid for fiction writers. Can you imagine the discussion about the worlds created by Tolkien? To share those ideas and help one another flesh out grand ideas, takes true intimacy and trust.

A great resource to learn more about the deep, intimate, relationship of these men, is an incredible blog written by Jamie Lapeyrolerie called Book and Beverages. Jamie has curated a great series on The Inklings.

The other intimate relationship I mention, of Paul and Timothy, can be discussed at length too.

Timothy was Paul’s right hand man. If Paul needed something done, something attended to, Timothy was there for him.

Timothy was such an integral part of Paul’s life at the end, that he essentially called him a son.

Paul wrote two letters to Timothy that became part of the modern-day Bible. That’s how important their relationship was to the kingdom of God. Their intimate relationship was used to spread the Gospel story around the world, then and now.

Paul was in and out of prison during their relationship. In fact, the 2nd letter to Timothy was written from prison.

Paul trusted Timothy to work in the growing population of Christians as his personal mouthpiece. Paul could not travel freely, so he sent Timothy.

How much do you trust your intimate friends? Paul trusted his intimate friend to share the most important message in the history of the world. That’s next level trust.

Do you have anyone this intimate in your life?

Is it possible to have this level of intimacy in our modern-day lives?

Is there anything holding us back from creating these deep levels of intimacy?

I’m currently trying to develop these kinds of relationship with a few people. It isn’t easy. Hard work is involved. But I believe it is worth it.

Friendship

Kinship In The Age of Social Media

I’ve had this idea of “friendship” rolling around in my head for a few months now. Questions continually pop into my head (and I try hard to remember to scribble them down so I can write about them later). As we interact with people, when do they become friends? Can friends replace family? What makes a good friend? Why do some people have great, close friendships and others do not?

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At the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College this year, my ideas on friendship were pushed and stretched and molded some more.

Interestingly, I was invited/encouraged/pushed to attend the festival by a great friend I had met online almost three years ago. She would be in town for the festival. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with her. It would be a time to reconnect about our personal lives, and to continue our connection through our writing.

What I didn’t know was the impact one of the speakers would have regarding my ruminations on the topic of friendship.

Author and Biblical Studies Professor, Wesley Hill, is writing and speaking extensively on the role of friendship in the church today. He specifically dives into the importance of friendship for the gay community in the church.

Listening to him speak, as a gay, celibate, Christian, actively involved in his church, made me begin thinking more about the idea of friendship and how deep the relationship of friends can be. He also helped me think more seriously about the role of my friends of both sexes.

Who are my closest, deepest, most important friends? Are they men or women?

Is it okay for me, a married, heterosexual, man, to have close friendships with women? Or, do I need to only have those close, kinship type, friendships with men?

Important questions.

Wesley Hill asks fellow Christians to care about friendship again. He has to. His decision to remain celibate forces him to examine and determine what is best for a relationship.

I, as a married man, need to do the same.

Yes, I have a spouse. But does that in itself limit the close relationship I’m allowed to have with my female friends?

The more I’ve read on the subject, the more I’ve discussed the subject with a variety of people, the more questions I create. And I haven’t found enough answers, at least ones to satisfy my own questions.

I’m intent on spending more time researching the role of friendship in my life. Specifically in my life as a married Christian man.

I’ll be looking more closely at the bonds of friendship between men like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams (The Inklings). Is their particular level of kinship even possible in our culture today?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the topic of friendship. Please join the conversation in the comments and on social media.

I look forward to writing and sharing more on this topic. It is important to me. It should be important to all of us.

The Festival of Faith and Writing

Stretching Outside My Zone with Shauna, Sarah and Wesley

Last week Thursday through Saturday I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’d never been to this festival, but I’d heard many great reviews of it over the two plus decades of its existence. Why did I go this year? Simple. I’m a writer. A full-time writer. For the first time since I began this writing journey three years ago, I’m able to work my schedule to my own benefit. I’m the boss. (Don’t tell my wife.)

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Looking through the mammoth program for the event (94 full pages), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Many of the writers and presenters were new to me. As I tried to determine where my time and attention would be best spent, I tried to focus on the description of the presentations instead of the presenters. I didn’t want to automatically attend the sessions of the people I had heard of, even a little bit. I wanted to focus on what I felt would be best for me as a writer.

This plan of action led me to presenters like Makoto Fujimura, Zadie Smith, Ashely Bryan, and Wesley Hill.

Side note on Fujimura:
Even though I had never heard of, or read, anything from Fujimura, his topic immediately drew me in. His new book, out later this year, Silence and Beauty, is a direct result of the work of Shusaku Endo and his masterful novel, Silence. Endo’s novel is on the shelf in my house. I’ve probably read it at least a half-dozen times over the years. And don’t miss the soon to be released movie of the same name directed by Martin Scorsese.

When the conference was almost finished, I sat down to think about the sessions having the most impact on me, at least right then and there. Later I may see others as having a greater impact, but these three authors ended at the top of my list.

While I said earlier my intention was to pick the sessions by the topics, I ended up attending sessions of two of the more well-known authors. Shauna Niequist and Sarah Bessey. Their topics pulled me in.

Shauna’s topic: Discussing what has influenced her writing, paying attention to the little things, and creativity.
Shauna was one of the speakers I knew before the conference. She writes in the Memoir and Personal Narrative Genre. Exactly where I believe I’m going with my writing. Listening to her seemed like a natural fit. One of the key ideas I wrote down was about there being many “right ways” to write in the genre. I don’t have to hold fast to a particular method.

Sarah’s topic: “Unqualified: Why Everyone Can Write About Theology”
Yep. That’ll pull me in every single time. I have a love of theology. For years I spent more time on head knowledge (theology/doctrine) than I did on heart knowledge (love). One thought I wrote down excites me, “Be okay with my theology ‘addiction’. Theology can intersect with ordinary life.” Sarah’s idea of “everyone gets to play” intrigues me. I’ll definitely dive deeper into the idea.

But what about Wes? Yes, Wes. Wesley Hill.
Mr. Hill opened my eyes wider to a topic I now realize had been rolling around in my head for a while. Friendship. Wesley’s presentation title was, “Till Death Do us Part: Reimagining Christian Friendship”. Some of you may wonder why this was such a big deal for me. Well, friendship is elusive for many people. Wes discussed friendship outside the traditional family. C.S. Lewis and his fellow Inklings had a friendship to write about and to envy. Is that kind of friendship even possible in our culture today? Great question, and I don’t have near enough space to answer it in this short post.

Which brings me to a realization. I need to write at least three more posts about these topics. Next week look for more about the idea of friendship. I can’t wait to share more with you.

Be well my friends. Be well.