Quotes from The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, with Kathy Keller (Dutton, 2011)
“However, there is a third quality to friendship, and it is not as easy to put into a single word. The right word, literally, is ‘sympathy’ – symp-pathos, common passion. This means that friendships are discovered more than they are created at will. Ralph Waldo Emerson and C.S. Lewis each wrote well-known essays about how a common vision can unite people of very different temperaments. Lewis insisted that the essence of friendship is the exclamation ‘You, too?’ While erotic love can be depicted as two people looking at one another, friendship can be depicted as two people standing side by side looking at the same object and being stirred and entranced by it together…The paradox is that friendship cannot be merely about itself. It must be about something else, something that both friends are committed to and passionate about besides one another.” (p. 113)
“Have you ever traveled to a mountainous part of the world when it was cloudy and rainy? You look out your windows and you can see almost nothing but the ground. Then the rain stops and the clouds part and you catch your breath because there, towering right over you, is this magnificent peak. But a couple of hours later the clouds roll in and it has vanished, and you don’t see it again for a good while That is what it is like to get to know a Christian. You have an old self and a new self (Ephesians 4:24). The old self is crippled with anxieties, the need to prove yourself, bad habits you can’t break, and many besetting sins and entrenched character flaws. The new self is always a work in progress, and sometimes the clouds of the old self make it almost completely invisible. But sometimes the clouds really part, and you see the wisdom, courage, and love of which you are capable. It is a glimpse of where you are going.” (p. 121)
This weekend we spent time in the North Georgia mountains. The above photo was our foggy view this morning. While there, I read the chapter “The Mission of Marriage” in Timothy and Kathy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, and discovered the above quotes. Also while we were there, my mother-in-law visited with me and Doug about what exactly we were moving to Clarkston to do. “What will your ministry be?” was her question.
As much as these two quotes have to do with marriage, they also express so beautifully one of the hopes for ministry that we wish to see fulfilled in Clarkston. You see, so many people think of the world in terms of “us” and “them.” “If my spoiled rotted child (“us”) could just see the poverty and hardship that poor teenager endures (“them”), my child would suddenly become grateful.” (cry of the suburban American parent) Maybe. Probably not for very long, though, unless they encounter something so precious and so valuable…friendship…with that other person. With “them.” So that, the “us” and the “them” gets so blurred that WE become friends. We find common ground. We see the clouds part in each other’s lives, and we rejoice at what could be…what will be. Then, as we stand shoulder to shoulder, we are both grateful for the grace of friendship and the peculiar way that God uses friends to show us more of Himself and to make us more gracious, grateful folks.
Our desire through moving to Clarkston is to call families into friendship with refugee families. To erase the “us” and “them” lines so that common passions are discovered – so that the glory that is mostly obscure in a fellow sojourner becomes obvious just once in a while, and both parties cry “Wow! God is Good!”
This afternoon, I got an email from the very first family that has taken a dip into the waters of refugee relationship alongside of us. The email was sweet and tender and so dripping with relationship and shared passions of life. It also broke my heart. The young mom in this new-to-America family tells her new friend from suburban north Atlanta that she is eating and sleeping a lot, because that is all she knows to do. She is finding herself lonely and even depressed in her new home. Friendship is a priceless, free, gift that erases loneliness and opens doors to views of God that are impossible when standing alone. I am so grateful that this new family has a friendship partner. I pray their friendship grows and community ensues, the gospel is lived and shared, and common rejoicing takes place. More than that, though, I pray that in five years, every family that is resettled to Clarkston will have a friendship partner to stand with them, to break down “us” and “them” barriers, and to gaze passionately at future glory made possible through Jesus Christ.
The picture below was our view before we left today, from the same vantage point. What a difference the parting of the clouds can make!