This is really special. Sheila (my wife for those of you who don't know) strongly prefers to stay in the background in this conversation on cross-gender friendship. She's not interested in writing on it or leading the conversation. As you will see, she is very passionate about the subject. She just has no passion to join me in leading a conversation. Yet, there would have never been a book if it weren't for Sheila's wholehearted support and companionship. Out of the blue a few days ago, she said, "I want to write something for your blog." I gladly said, "Sure."
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
Lewis Carroll 1872
Recently, Dan and I drove to a lunch meeting for the purpose of nurturing a new friendship. When he momentarily left the table, the beautiful sister across from me asked, “So how are you with Dan’s ministry? Are you along for the ride, or do you support this?”
The question shocked me into recognition that his book was published some time ago, and there are people reading this blog who are new to the scene, testing the waters for the first time, perhaps having never laid eyes on Da Book. Such folk may not be aware of my ardent support for cross-gender friendship.
So I am here to “talk of many things” but especially of “ships” – Friendships!
I most definitely believe that Friendship is one of God’s greatest gifts, and I include cross-gender friendship in that sweeping statement. I confessed my own history with cgfs in the Foreword to Dan’s book:
I am a mathematician. Because my choice of vocation was made prior to the influx of women into this field of endeavor, my significant friendships were necessarily formed with men, men who shared my field of study and work. At the time, I didn’t think “Wow, I have cross-gender friendships here!” They were friendships with all the richness that the word implied and without any additional modifiers or surgeon-general warnings.
And so it remains. I was enjoying cross-gender friendships well before my particular cross-gender friendship with Daniel! And I continue to enjoy them to this day.
Ours is a culture that regards “friend” as a verb, the friending/defriending of another human accomplished with a casual mouse-click. For that reason, I think it is needful to ponder this topic anew. For that same reason, I choose to use the capital “F” to signify something different from the Facebook notion. I have in mind deep and intimate Friendship - period.
I am not sufficiently arrogant to think I can improve on the years and years of beautiful blog posts Daniel has already presented here – and the many profound quotations and posts from other deep thinkers. But I do want to add my own “Amen” to the chorus of witnesses at this blog site.
Once I set for myself the task of writing about this amazing gift my own words seem utterly impoverished for unveiling the beauty, the glory of Friendship.
"Friendship is something whose depth fits
human aspirations and fulfills human possibilities. It has heft to it, as a
gold-piece does and a gambling chip does not.
There is Mystery in Friendship and people speak of it as something that gives them life and that is worth dying for."
~ Eugene Cullen Kennedy
Once again from the Foreword to Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions:
Friendship love is one of God’s sweet gifts for our earthly pilgrimage, one gift that we can take with us into eternity. There is chemistry here, of a kind. There is mystery here. Take off your shoes because this is holy ground! The Lord God himself visits us embodied in a friend. Friendship is incarnational.
When our son, Jonathan, was quite young and fearful of the dark, we read Psalm 139, declaring that God was right there in the room with him, that it was never dark for God. Jonathan did not dispute any of these foundational truths, but he passionately cried out, “I want someone with bones in them!”
When the Lord gives us a friend, he himself comes to us “with bones.”
That may happen in same-gender or cross-gender relationships. But it happens uniquely in every Friendship.
Friendship may begin with a sudden lightning flash of insight, “Wow! He really gets what I’m saying!” or “She is just as passionate about this as am I!” Or Friendship can grow slowly out of small, intimate discoveries. But what is pivotal in every instance is the willingness to invest in relationship beyond an occasional email or phone call, the openness to deep connection and therefore deep vulnerability. I recently heard this definition from a recorded book: A necessary but not sufficient condition for intimacy – vulnerability (i.e., the other person has the capacity to hurt me).
And there it is – that scary V-word! Right in time for Halloween, huh?
Friendship embraces heights of joy and depths of despair; it entails risks and dangers. We do not avoid Friendship for these reasons; neither do we throw our hearts across the train tracks. We enter through those marble arches with reverence, carefully monitoring our hearts. The way in is the way forward, or so it seems to me. We need to continue to be reverent and continue to monitor our own hearts in this journey.
Daniel has much to say about this in his posts, so I’ll happily leave that to him. In fact, a large portion of what he discusses here applies to Friendship in general.
I would like us to consider the necessity of Friendship, the covenant/longevity, priority, courage, intentionality, rituals of Friendship, not to mention “why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings”!
I am making no promises as to when I’ll get to write Part 2, but I hope that Part 1 has at least cleared up any confusion about whether I am just “along for the ride.”
And I have declared to them Your name,
and will declare it,
that the love with which You loved Me
may be in them, and I in them.