On Being a (Spiritual) Friend
When continents separate you, when language separates you, when time separates you, when pain separates you from those that you’ve loved and called friend the true spirit of friendship does not need to cease.
Being in close personal contact, sharing the hopes, dreams and fears of your life are a beautiful part of friendship but they are the flowers of it, not the foundation. As long as the foundation is rich your friendship is strong in God’s eyes.
The foundation of friendship is secret. It is not boastful, but quiet. It does not seek compensation, but pours out love as readily as a mother gives her child milk. I’m speaking of prayer and fasting. Both of which Jesus asked us to do without anybody noticing.
Few things show more profound love for another human being than time taken out of the day to pray for them. Heaven is listening but your friend is not and so there will be no “Thank you” or embrace from him or her. In this way you are strengthening your bond with another person and you are striving for a selfless love.
To take it a step further befriend your friend’s guardian angel. In this way the things you cannot do the angel will do for you.
Fasting is something that is relatively new to me. I usually just feel grumpy when I set my expectations too high, but offering up even the smallest sacrifices of your day for a good friend is a pain in the devil’s side. If you could actually see your friend’s spiritual battles in all their horror and magnificence you’d be throwing some pretty badass blows, making demons flee. It is exhilarating to think of this but also daunting. I think of these things and I don’t know if I truly love my friends this much, to sacrifice my comforts for the love of them. So when I do challenge myself I start small, because I am a spoiled child. I remind myself it is better to start small than not to start at all. Better to begin a squire then never be out on the battlefield defending not only myself, but those I love from evil.
In the eyes of the world keeping the foundation of friendship rich is a thankless job. Prayer and fasting are so hard to grasp for our modern go get ‘em minds. We want results and fun or nothing at all. But a true spirit of friendship is so much deeper than even I am able to grasp at this moment. It goes beyond the vain superficialities that we sometimes think make up our relationships.
If prayer and fasting is all you can do that is a great thing. Sometimes it is not practical, wise or mutually edifying to be in physical contact with a friend, but what can the devil do with your eyes lifted up to heaven and your hungry body ready to be fed by God?
God grant us all the grace to love with pure hearts and be living sacrifices for those we love, so that in the end we might be called True Friends.
Now I’m nowhere near that sort of beautiful spirit. But I’ve got a few small ways to make this whole task to become a True Friend a little easier. This advice is especially helpful if you have a short attention span or get bored quickly (as most of my generation is I think).
Creative ways to love friends through prayer and fasting:
-Get a big empty glass jar and small square pieces of paper that you can fold once or twice. On each small piece of paper write the names of friends and/or specific needs of people you know. They don’t have to be people you know well. Fill the jar up. Every evening pick 3 and spend some time praying for them. This way you won’t get overwhelmed thinking you have to pray for simply everybody.
-Think of five people or intentions you need to pray for each month and go buy some candles that symbolize each one. Have them out when you pray and light them as you finish praying for each thing. It helps to visually show you the “existence” of those prayer and that they are not forgotten by God.
-If you’re really bad at fasting (like me) switch what you are giving up each day so that it doesn’t drive you crazy. When you are used to that you can try some harder things.
If all else fails meditate on the Gospels and the life of Samwise Gamgee and you’re bound to find something helpful.