The Faces of Friendship
By Isabel_Anders on January 13, 2012
A lot has changed in my life since I wrote The Faces of Friendship
more than twenty years ago: my parents are no longer living; my children are grown and have started their careers; and I’ve written a number of other books.
Last year I wrote a book on marriage, Blessings and Prayers for Married Couples. Now, looking back on Faces of Friendship, it seems fitting to point out the similarities in ALL relationships that have a spiritual dimension, and to see friendship almost as a “little sacrament” in this context.
I wrote in my original Introduction: “To share in the life of Christ is to be friends of God and to be in unity with each other.” To different degrees of exclusivity, this model works for many kinds of relationships, including those of “nearest neighbor” in our marriages.
I quote Aelred of Rievaulx’s classic work Spiritual Friendship, in which he said “He who dwells in friendship dwells in God, and God in him.” On my website, IsabelAnders.com, I have kept displayed a similar quote, from Paul Tillich, stretched across the home page as a banner: “In every moment of genuine love, we are dwelling in God and God in us.”
I like basics—concepts that are both simple and profound, and that “wrap” a theology as well as this one does. William Law adds to this mix the importance of reason and spiritual understanding—qualities in which we are expected to grow in the Christian walk. And surely our friendships and struggles in relationships will always be part of the learning.
As with any collection of personal essays, I have shared some of my own struggles and insights. But my suggestion to any who read the chapters of The Faces of Friendship is to look for points of connection with your own stories, and share them with each other. You can use mine as jumping off points—along with the questions at the end of the chapters. Add your own questions too.
I chose the book’s title, The Faces of Friendship, and the publisher kept it, which is not always the case. I intended it to function in two ways, the first of which is the literal sense, which these wonderful faces on the cover of the new edition show—how friendship is mediated from person to person.
But the first edition of the book, with its icon of St. Ann and St. Joachim embracing, provided a sense of the second meaning: That there is something about earthly friendship which, like an icon, invites us to see through it into sacred dimensions—into the many faces or facets of friendship as sacrament.
As I wrote in my Introduction, “love of neighbor as self seems to be a process that has everything to do with our own salvation, the embracing of our humanness that is the focal point of our being redeemable creatures” (p. 2).
Some of the faces or facets of friendship, as I wrote about it, include:
In true friendship, our reason and our wills as well as our feelings of love are to be engaged (p. 3).
I have learned painfully that desiring good for one’s friend is hardly ever without some self-interest in the matter (p. 3).
A friend is one whose essential beingness, whose presence in the world, has touched ours at some point (p. 7).
Friendship with God, as we even find the boldness to speak of it, is a matter of being, and of being ourselves with God, as God is God with us (p. 12).
Friendship with God is not only presence, suffering, connectedness, but also joy. In friendship, with and for others on this journey, we are also, in a paradox, brought back into the glow of God’s transcendence (p. 22).
In these essays on friendship, I have quoted from some of my favorite spiritual writers, and they provide depth and counterpoint to my reflections on my own life and lessons learned.
I wrote in Blessings and Prayers for Married Couples, in which I was also asked to write essays—this time on marriage—but also to include original and traditional prayers for couples to use: “The reason for the many perspectives and points of view and various experiences that have been recounted in these pages is the simple truth that we only experience marriage as embodied people, in particularity ...”
Of course, this is equally true of friendship, and that is why your own stories, your own perspectives and insights, are necessary to take this journey of examining the various faces of friendship.
I close Faces of Friendship by saying: “We have been called to be part of those others’ stories, as they have been within ours. As we stay together, with, by, and for each other, we are saying, “Keep on, there is more ahead!”
And, quoting St. Paul: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.”
Isabel Anders is also the author of the award-winning Becoming Flame: Uncommon Mother-Daughter Wisdom and co-author with Diane Marquart Moore of the Father Malachi mystery Chant of Death.
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