Carmen Lappe explores how holy friendships accompany us on our journey of discipleship and model the love of Christ.
On a warm afternoon in October, I found myself feeling hopeless. Not just sad or withdrawn, but truly lacking any semblance of hope for my future. There were many changes taking place in my life and although those changes were implemented to bring about greater peace, my anxiety was at a fever pitch. Trying to get my footing felt like climbing a dune of sand; my feet kept slipping and I couldn’t grasp onto anything with confidence.
I decided to visit Dad at the cemetery and ask for his prayers. Dad was a most compassionate listener, eager to hear what was going on in the lives of his children and offer unwavering support and guidance. I lay down on the grass and told him everything that was happening and how it all was affecting me. When the words stopped, the tears came. A deluge of confusion, anxiety, and pain poured forth with such raw power I could hardly catch my breath.
I sent a text to one of my best friends and told her what was going on, where I was, and how I was feeling. Minutes later, I heard a car approaching the cemetery. It seemed to draw closer to the place I was lying before coming to an abrupt stop. I looked up to see my friend standing there, fresh out of the shower.
She came to be with me.
She lay on the grass next to me and put her arm around me. She offered encouragement, love, and peace. She affirmed the hard decisions I had made. Most importantly, she prayed with me and for me.
“Father, please give Carmen your peace. Help her to know she is making the right decision, Lord. Please let your healing hand rest upon her broken heart as she grieves her father. Let her see her father’s legacy when she looks at her children. Help her to know he is with her and is proud of the woman she is.”
In that moment of vulnerability, her prayers flooded my heart with warmth and comfort that could have only come from the very Breath of Love, the Holy Spirit. It is because of her selflessness that I was able to rise, brush the dirt and grass from my jeans, and carry on.
As I’ve reflected on this experience over the past few months, I’ve come to recognize the importance of holy friendships; those connections that don’t shy away from intimacy but rather dig in through other-focused love. True, holy friendships, as with any relationship built on love, find their roots in the source of all love, God the Father.
When we look to the Scriptures, we see how Jesus shows forth the love of God through a seemingly simple encounter. What He gives us is a model of true ministry; He does not hesitate to minister to the beloved in front of him. This is the ministry we are compelled to emulate: to love the person in front of us regardless of their need or how uncomfortable it may cause us to feel.
Mark 10:17-22 provides a beautiful account of Jesus’ merciful love with the rich man seeking the Kingdom of God:
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
Similarly, we see how Jesus’ presence brings peace to the scared disciples:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19)
Of course these encounters with Christ were extraordinary, but Christ’s actions in these two accounts provide a rather simple model for us today, over 2,000 years after His death. A simple look of love to a lost, confused man. Entering the disciples’ presence to give them His peace. We are all capable of extending a loving gaze and entering into time with a beloved. That’s what my friend did on that warm October day: she looked upon me with love, then dropped everything to be with me. Her actions were truly a ministry of presence.
I believe God places these friends along our path, and that these friendships are an instrument by which he reveals His beauty and goodness to the world. Holy friendships are an opportunity for us to discover Christ, and Christ in one another. Ultimately, these relationships are opportunities for us to help one another reach our heavenly home.
Spend some time reflecting upon the friendships in your life and the impact they’ve had on your journey of discipleship. I invite you to ask the Holy Spirit to give you the courage and grace to dig rather than run; to help shift your focus outward to better love the beloved in front of you.
In the words of French philosopher Gustave Thibon: “Vanity runs, love digs.”
May we constantly strive to dig and be dug into by the love of Jesus through holy friendships.
Copyright 2022 Carmen Lappe
Images: Canva Pro
About the Author
Carmen is a wife and mother of two in midwestern Iowa. She has a Master of Arts degree in Sacred Theology and has a special passion for writing about the grace of motherhood. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and exploring breweries and baseball stadiums across the country.