When I was a naïve eighteen-year-old entering college, I thought I wouldn’t have a problem making and keeping friends. But a quick survey of my twenties would reveal a long line of acquaintances and friendly people who I knew and worked alongside—all of whom are no longer in my life for one reason or another.
Lacking One Thing
As I neared my thirties, I became increasingly aware that my friendships lacked something important: vulnerability. I began seeing this absence in many of my current relationships too. Alarm bells sounded in my ears when someone gave me a guarded answer, ringing out “I don’t really want to share my heart with you!”
Many walk through life with acquaintances, not realizing that they are missing true friendship. In the age of Photoshop and curated feeds, it is normal to publish only what we want people to see. After years of posting these false images of myself on social media and in real relationships, I came up feeling empty and lonely.
In my search for authentic and genuine friendship, I longed to feel like I could be myself without the need to hide behind a mask or stand protected behind a wall. These precious relationships can only flourish by being vulnerable and sharing real struggles with others.
Long-Lasting Friendship Is Like a Submarine
In his excellent book, Made for Friendship, Drew Hunter remarks:
“Friendship should be more like a submarine, holding few and going deep. But we’ve made it more like a cruise ship filled with lots of nice people whom we don’t know well at all” [p. 26].
I couldn’t agree more. My twenties were littered with shallow relationships which, on the outside, seemed acceptable. We had fun; we talked about work, our families, our likes and dislikes. But it never went any further. When I made attempts to plunge into the depths, I was met with resistance in a guarded reply or a deferred comment. In other words, they were content skimming the surface with little interest in going deeper.
More Than Acquaintances
How deep are your friendships? Are they characterized by a trusted few, or are you lost in a crowd of friendly Facebook friends? Drew Hunter points out, “Most of what we call friendship is little more than acquaintanceship” [p. 28].
He argues that a lack of sharing sin struggles contributes to this hollow view of friendship. I realized that, in order to earn the level of friendship I was craving, I had to be willing to share openly my own sin struggles.
Don’t Stop After Disappointment
Even though I’ve been hurt and disappointed by failed friendships many times over the years, I haven’t let it stop me from continuing to seek true, long-lasting friendship. I am so glad I didn’t quit. It has taken almost two decades, but now I have truly tasted what genuine friendship looks like, and I cherish those relationships.
I want you to experience the kind of friendship C.S. Lewis called “the chief happiness in life” [p. 61]. These relationships will take time and require intentional commitment. But I challenge you to take the first step towards experiencing this grace of God.
Who has God placed in your life who you can start diving deeper with in conversation? You may find a friend you didn’t realize you were searching for.