There are no less than seven different words in French for “friend.” Copain (a friend), comarade (a schoolmate), connaissance (an acquaintance), pote (a buddy), and ami (a close friend) are a few. Each have different degrees of meaning and appropriate use.
We would ask a friend from work or casual friends to help move some furniture; but we might hesitate to share a financial burden or a family struggle with them. A true friend, however, we can count on, share our experience, and trust them for help and support.
After the Last Supper, we find Jesus and His dear friends in a garden called Gethsemane. It is just before Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, and we find Him passing the hours of the night in agonizing prayer. His friends are having difficulty staying awake with Him and keeping Him company, but they are with Him and He is not alone.
Friendship, I’ve found, can be an amazing metaphor and model for participating in mission with God. Rather than beginning with a message, friendship focuses on establishing a relationship. Rather than focusing on turning one’s life around, friendship focuses first on finding and being found. Instead of calling us to go and do, friendship bids us to come along and be with.
Presence and listening are among our strongest tools to share Christ with others. Before Jesus’ resurrection victory, there was the dark and agony of night. If we want to watch the dawn of Jesus in the life of someone, we must be willing to sit through the pre-dawn darkness with them.
I prayed for several years for the salvation of one of my close friends. It was a “long night” of many conversations and Bible studies together. The day came when my phone rang and I heard the news that he had decided to follow Jesus. That long night made the dawn so much brighter, so much warmer in my heart.
Of course we continue to wait through the night of other agonies too -illness, children who stray, and many other dark nights. Aren’t you glad we do not wait and watch for the dawn alone? Who can you watch and wait with this Lenten season?