(text from today’s homily from the Grace Independent Eucharist service on Http://blogtalkradio.com/grace-independent)
Springtime brings about a kind of openness and yearning for intimacy that is partially a revolt against the barren coldness of winter and partially a memory of the harvest cycle.
Within the memory of our human history, which we all carry within us as part of the universal unconscious, is the idea that in spring, with the ground’s thaw, it is time to plant and grow new things.
Things that will feed us, sustain us, and prepare us to survive again the winter that will eventually come.
This is a part of the cycle of life that we are members of. This cycle, this pattern is written within our bones and since man first began teaching man about what Gods or wisemen had to say about life, it has always included teachings about how to plant seeds, how to nurture new growth, and how to harvest the plant as it ripens.
This cycle of growth has also been used as metaphor to teach us about our relationships – to our family, our intimate partners, our work partners and our friends.
Understanding the nature of friendship is something that has become clouded over the past few decades as our social understanding of what it means to be supportive of someone, and what it means to receive support from someone have become polluted and negated
A part of this has come from the change in our perception of the speed in which friendships occur. These days we call people we know nothing about, but share some common points of interests or superficial likes and dislikes – “friend.”
We have become reliant on the behavior of such people when we are in our time of need to show us if they are truly supportive and a friend of quality, or merely a fair weather friend. We have become reliant on the negative to reveal the quality of our intimacies.
But good friends are revealed to us when things are going well also. We have just accepted the myth that we are incapable of seeing their true nature and presence in our lives. Our expectation now, of friendship, is that it is suspect until the bad happens and that attitude does nothing to encourage the nurturance of the seed of acquaintance to the bloom of friendship. That expectation poisons relationships because it casts them under the shadow of the expectation of “waiting for the other shoe to fall.”
And more people than you think can excel at being there for you when the chips are down because they only know how to act and respond and feel under the extremes of duress.
People like that will need you to be in need in order to sustain a friendship.
It is also common these days for so-called friendships to bloom out of the familiarity of dysfunction. The draw towards each other, the immediate sense of kinship stems from an intuitive recognition that this person contains the same as you have always known and will not challenge you to grow, they will sustain you in staying the same, they feel safe because you already know what to expect from them.
Yet how they do it may appear different then the patterns you are trying to escape and you believe, until reality hits with a hard speed, that this is a good friend with your best interests in mind.
There are two hallmarks of a good and true friendship, and these apply whether we are talking about two people or two nations.
The first hallmark is that the person is willing to take responsibility for themselves and to choose to act for themselves. In this day and age we forget the latter half of that sentence, the taking action part, and believe that just the verbal statement of responsibility is enough. It is not, it is the equivalent of saying “I’m sorry” for something you have done and then doing it again because you believe that in the saying of “I am sorry” the slate has been wiped clean and the wounds healed. Taking responsibility requires emotional and mental acknowledgement and physical, emotional and mental action to change so that whatever it was does not happen again. Or, conversely, that if it was a good thing that happened, to be able to do it again.
The second hallmark of a friend is that they are willing to lose the friendship.
By that, I mean that a friend holds two things to be of importance at all times – the preservation of the integrity of their friend, and the preservation of their own integrity.
A good friend is willing to challenge you when they think you are harming yourself or your integrity. They offer sympathy and commiseration but they do not validate self-destruction. Neither will they offer themselves as sacrifice to your choice of self-destruction.
A good friend reminds you of all that you are capable of and helps you to not only remember that in bad times, but helps to build on it in good times.
Consider your life.
In gathering the new and the different to your life, in choosing new flowers and fruits to plant in your spring so you may grow beyond harmful patterns and toxic relationships, are you careful not to pick the same thing as before?
Do your relationships make you and the other person feel good and strong; or are they rooted in one of you always being in need?
Can you sit in silence, without doing anything, and feel the rightness of presence between the two of you?
For before we have words, we have our wordless and emotional intuition, we have the gift of children, that of knowing from within our bodies, what it right and just, what is strong and lasting, what is of peace.
It is the knowledge of the adult body that confuses lust with love, desire with justice, and need for peace.
Consider carefully your relationships, for they are the language through which we speak to the world of the consideration we have for our lives.
Choose to weed and tend your gardens so that good things grow, choose to respect your integrity just as much as you respect an other’s and from this, all good relationships will grow.
In Christ’s name,