I sit close by my sister; yet not close enough, for the Atlantic lies between. I hold out my hands as she drops word by word into these palms. She says, he shot himself while driving on the freeway. She says, all I ever thought was how he had his own friends, how he never needed me. She says, you know I wish I wasn’t so obsessed with myself. She says, what if I had been there, what if I had listened? I watch a beautiful woman cry in the arms of my mother. I watch how my mother gracefully listens, pours out love all over her, holds her up with the truth of who she is. And I realize, my mother’s hospitality was never just an invitation into her home but an invitation into her heart. I think of dark nights that I have known, dark nights of tears and demons of despair, and the faithful friend who has held the broken girl in me. How she listened silently to my every word, let her own heart break for my sadness. In those dark hours I am known, in those dark hours I am loved. Amidst the cries of a multitude of people longing for more than superficial friendships, longing to be known to their core, longing to be loved, I marvel at how we are made; with all the auditory apparatus we need that we may take in the spoken thoughts of one another. We are made for more than just acknowledging the sound waves of each other. We are made with the ability to listen. We are made for this kind of worship. It is only through listening that we come to know others. It is only when we know others that we can love. Because listening is an invitation, it is welcoming the story of another into our heart. To be welcomed without an agenda to change or manipulate, without judgment or need to prove wrong or right. When we listen as friends, we listen as the curious lovers who want to unearth the roots behind every statement, who want to examine the frames hanging on our walls like an exhibition and who want to read between the lines of every story. When friends take the time to listen, they see that we are all just stories. And in each of our story there are great tragedies and great adventures, great romances and great heartbreaks. The beauty of the story is that there is no right or wrong. A friend listens to let the story unfold, that they may understand. A friend listens that they may ask the right questions, the questions that no one may have dared to ask before. Tell me, where does it hurt the most? Tell me, why do you feel this way? Tell me all the words you never said to him but you wish you could And the most important questions a friend can ask: What do you need from me right now? What did I do today that made you feel appreciated? What did I say that made you feel unnoticed? But without listening out for the pauses in the story, the place where one chapter ends and the other chapter begins, the sentences that were just too hard to complete, we will never learn how to ask. When friends forfeit the task of asking, as if the answer we will hear is the next world wonder, then we forfeit the gift we could give each other, a gift we all need. The gift of knowing there is no answer I must carry alone. Friendships begin only when we choose to invest, only when we choose to listen. It is only when we listen do we learn to ask, to search, to dig to find the diamond in the rough hiding in each others unknown caverns. Friends are the ones who remind us how to shine once again after years of burying it deep. When we approach friendships as a means to appease our boredom, as a quick fix of temporary excitement and pleasure, we fail to establish deep, meaningful connections. And we are made for more than isolation, we are made for connection. What stories do our friendships tell of us? Are we fabricating tales of hearts experienced in the art of walking away when the knowledge of another gets tough? Do our lives tell the tale of humans who merely co-exist in each other’s space, humans too self-focused to listen?
Or are we creating beautiful tapestries of love? If I were to ask you, who is your closest friend? Would you answer me, “no one”? Why?
"Friendships create a beautiful tapestry of love." - Henri Nouwen
"For, in good truth, a friend is more to be longed for than the light; I speak of a genuine one. And wonder not: for it were better for us that the sun should be extinguished, than that we should be deprived of friends; better to live in darkness, than to be without friends. And I will tell you why. Because many who see the sun are in darkness, but they can never be in tribulation, who abound in friends. I speak of spiritual friends, who prefer nothing to friendship. Such was Paul, who would willingly have given his own soul, even though not asked, nay would have plunged into hell for them. With so ardent a disposition ought we to love."
- St. John Chyrsostom