Have you ever wondered if your friendship with Jesus is a healthy one?
I’m not sure if I ever considered this particular question before. Of course, I’ve considered many times what it means to believe Jesus is my friend. In fact, in Ignatian spirituality, the conversation of Jesus as a friend comes up a fair amount. In his book, Ignatian Spirituality A to Z, Jim Manney says, “The Ignatian tradition is to hold God close. The dynamic of the Spiritual Exercises is to get to know Jesus intimately as a friend, companion, and mentor… Ignatius thought that once Jesus becomes your friend, everything else will fall into place.”
But what does being Jesus’ friend really mean? Is it possible that things aren’t quite falling into place for me because this friendship I have been forming with Jesus all these years is not actually a healthy one?
This semester, I’m teaching a course on Christian relationships, and recently we entered the unit on friendship. To open the unit, I asked the students to write down what they considered to be signs of healthy and unhealthy friendships. After class, I compiled their lists and learned that, for them, a healthy friend:
- lets me be myself;
- is honest even when it is difficult;
- has my back no matter what;
- is always there when I need help;
- supports my dreams;
- forgives me; and, of course,
- is able to laugh with me.
In contrast, for my students, an unhealthy friend:
- always put himself first;
- always needs something from you but never gives anything in return;
- is one person in front of you and another person in front of others;
- is too focused on material things;
- does not own up to his or her mistakes;
- always flakes on plans;
- uses humor more at your expense than as a way to laugh with you.
As my students made these lists, they were thinking mostly about the experiences they have had over their short 18 years with the human beings that have journeyed alongside them. But when I read their lists after class, I found myself thinking more about the relationship I have with a certain person I’ve never had the pleasure to meet in person: Jesus. I realized that almost every day Jesus demonstrates for me that he is a healthy friend, and almost every day I demonstrate back to him that I am not.
How many times do I rush my conversations with Jesus, focusing only on what I need at that moment? How many times do I flake on the plans I make to spend more time in prayer? How often do I blame time, circumstances, or even God for my mistakes instead of admitting my own wrongdoing? How often do I try to hide from Jesus the moments I have been less than the person I want to be? How often do I fail to bring Jesus into the more humorous and joyful moments of my day?
Truth be told, I think my friendship with Jesus is far from healthy right now. I take and take and take, but I’m not sure I give as much back as I should. So, how do I go about correcting this? Lent might just be the best time of all to try. This Lent, instead of focusing on how I can better myself, I am focusing on how to make my friendship with Jesus a little healthier.
Is your friendship with Jesus a healthy one? If not, what can you do to work on it this Lenten season?
Image: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.