Letter to Friends
It is necessary for me to write. Only then the troops of thoughts are manifested, in every chosen word. Friendship nowadays appears to be a broad and common interest, but it is ones with you which finally urged me to write about it.
These friendships I do not make, these friendships I find myself in, these friendships spring. I find them, or rather not I, but the God in me and you. You my friends, come to me unsought, the great God gave you to me. A friend is not gained, a friend is given, a friend is a gift. I have always wondered, what brings two friends together? How does one become friend of the other? I cringe at the idea of discernment or taste. We often talk about choosing friends, in fact friends are self-elected, or more aptly, divine-elected. As Jesus says, you have not chosen Me but I have chosen you, friends have not chosen one another but He has chosen them for one another. The heart knows reasons which reason does not. I do not know but I know, and I know more than I can tell.
To love is to ask not to be loved in return, but to be a friend to you is to have you have me as your friend too. When the goodwill and delight and tenderness and warm caring in and for the other cease to be reciprocal, friendship ceases. With strength of God’s love, I can choose to love. But I cannot choose to make friends. I cannot make friendships. People are tied by admiration, by hope, by fear, by duty, by circumstances, by hate, by love, but friends are drawn together to each other by something more than that. There is some spontaneity and absence of calculation involved in it, a leaning of mind rather than an awareness of what is to be contributed or to be derived from it. I admit I used to put you on the pedestal, I knew then it was not a friendship. When I stop looking up or down at you, and when I start looking at you yourself, you become my friend.
Before you I seem to think aloud. Before you I may be silent in my quietness when everyone else thinks that someone has to speak. Before you I can afford to be serious and sensible, and silly. I enjoy your quirk wit that is yours alone and the easiness of being dumb with you. We may come to each other with our deep ponderings, lofty sentiments and feelings and hopes, and complexities of our thoughts. With others, propriety and flattery are required, with you I may drop these garments of courtesy and deal with you in simplicity and in the whole complexities that I am. And still in it, there is certain good nature of firm graciousness which is pleasant. To laugh and cry and scorn and yearn, together, into literature, into music, into the humming of trees and mountains, into the dawn and the dark night like darkness itself, into a shared journey and mutual conquest of sin, of desperate raging of battle of souls, to see your heart see what my heart sees. I like being with you.
You know, it is queer the way as a person I respond to people. Some I am able to like and can love almost spontaneously and immediately, to some others I am slow to even have the slightest leaning. To a few after a wrenching confession of ugliness of self, I grow to love them more. To a few others, on the contrary, my previous affection just shrink uncontrollably I cannot prevent it. I remember the saying, rejoice with them that do rejoice, weep with them that do weep. I should feel pride in others’ accomplishments, their goodness I find it mine too. His or her joy is mine and I feel as warmly when he or she is praised. But the cold truth is that, ordinarily I do not find happiness of every kind infectious or unhappiness of every kind grievous. With some who are doing well, often I am simply indifferent to their flourishing. Sincerely I would like to be happy for them, but sometimes, certain sourness afflicts me. Then, a darker reaction is there too. Not only does my heart not leap, it positively sinks. Why is that?
I think that it is shallow of me to say that I do not judge people by appearance. This world is tangible and visible world, I am human and too humanly stigmatized in seeing. Of course I dream of transparency, and transparency is most liberating. To experience the luminousness of someone, of people being what they are; that is the greatness. But deceit is what I practice every day, even to myself. I will be always enclosed in this terrible varnish and carapace of false familiarity with self and world, which is not only hard to break through, but will be always there. Every step of mine is accompanied with fear of being known and being rejected. These burdens of pride, and pretence, and artificiality. Should I cease imagining that one can be truthful, and realize that all of us are hypocritical fakes? Perhaps only when one has done this realization that it may be possible to move into a more genuine affinity with mankind. There are burdens we must carry together.
Only God can turn evil to good, and only God can wreak havoc in the corrupted course of nature, even if that slice of nature is called the self of weak human being, the weak you and me. I have to be patient with whatever wrong I cannot make right in you and me. If I cannot bend my will to what I would wish to be, how can I bend your will? I cannot want you to be severely corrected while I do not correct myself. But we do not have to be perfect to correct, to counsel, to advise each other. No man is perfect, no man is without fault, no man is without burden, no man is sufficient on his own and no man is wise enough. It is our dues therefore, to support and build each other. No gift is too trivial and no man is too good for the meanest service. Each and everyone are a student and a teacher.
Now, to me, I am an ‘I’. To you, I am a ‘you’. This is deep enough distinction between each other. I need to be me, you need to be you. I need to be with you, I need to be alone. I need to be like you, I need to be unlike you. A world in which you and I never connected would be a terror, and so would a world which we were exactly the same, and therefore connect unfailingly, with every object on every occasion. When we are friends to each other, I help you to be you, and you help me to be me. We help us to be us. With the help of God and each other, we shall become ourselves. Friends help each other to fulfill the duty to be more ourselves, and not less. In the world to come, I shall not be asked, ‘why were you not someone else?’ I shall be asked, ‘Why were you not you?’ We become more ourselves by realizing the ‘selves’ God originally intended for us. And it always begins with trust that God’s is best. Friends help each other to be more like each other. Not in the manner of fashioning self to the other self, but to find and imitate the Creator who is in and above each other.
Truly, I must be a friend of truth before I can be a friend to any human being, even to you. Truth requires sincerity and frankness, but I cannot condone mine or your reserve and discretion, done either by will or by weaknesses. Truthfulness and sincerity and openness will never be complete in this fallen world. In this fallen world we will never know ourselves fully. Since I do not know myself fully, how can I possibly impose you to let yourself to be fully and truthfully known to me? Also, how could you be willing to open and bid your heart for my keeping, your soul to be anchored, the knowledge of your thoughts for me to bear, your life to be shared and guarded and protected, your love to truly and strongly held amidst all bracings, your all to be won and not easily tossed away? How could you be certain that I am strong enough? That I am brave enough? That I am excellent enough? All of a heart is to bear, and I know I am not a good bearer of heart. Not that I try to refuse my responsibilities as your friend, but I could even be the main source of your hurts and disappointments. Where on earth is such a one to be found, one whose mind and character can give such a security? I cannot even be completely sure of myself and my own heart, how could you trust me? How would you have faith in me?
Thus I beg, do not give me all, please remain acutely aware of my fallen humanity. Do not take me as the trustworthy and the dearest because that special trust and love must belong to Him alone. Only God can be trusted and loved for the sake of Himself. Love and have faith in me for the sake of the love of God and faith in God, loving the love of God and the faith in God in me. All will seek their own interests, and that includes me. Only God place our profits first and turn them into our good. It is His just due to have us love and trust Him above and in everything else. Are we not too small to give ourselves to Him to give anything else not for His sake? You simply cannot love me too much. When you love Him more, you love me more. When you love Him less, you love me less. Yes, as I apprehend it, love is such. Ask for His love, even just a little, but which will suffice us a lifetime to love Him and serve others He places in our lives.
Who am I anyway to fathom and comprehend this mystery of love in friendship? But I do not wish to regard and deal with it carelessly and hastily, but with the most solid grit and resolve. I used to believe that I must walk alone in this world, that I must be disillusioned to be a friend and to want friends. But hope in the Faithful Friend cheers the heart, to endure and dare and challenge me, whom I can love and can love me. After numerous shames and failures, we will come to an end, when we may meet as glorious friends to one another and of God.
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- June 7, 2007 / 12:19
- Love and friendship