I quarrelled with a friend today. Two stubborn heads butting into each other, one resistant to change, one insisting that he must be receptive to advice and actively seek out God and His wisdom. An arrow trying to pierce an iron block. “Your soul needs to be healthy; it’s where the Holy Spirit lives. Sometimes you need to hold your responses back a little; don’t be so quick to offer an excuse. You won’t develop otherwise.”
In the middle of it I said that if there was no edifying aspect of our friendship, then it was pointless for us to hang out. A friendship wishes the best for each other, and it seeks mutual strengthening. I said “Love does not wish for a person to remain where they are. I’m saying that I do love and have compassion for you. Do you understand?” I realised I was repeating CS Lewis’s own teachings. It was what I was reading a couple of days ago in The Problem of Pain. We are all very flawed, and all of us have a long way to go in being better people. That's why love wishes for the other person to change (for the better), not stagnate. A friend seeks to help make the other person stronger, wiser, better. Today I realised for myself that true love, the love of God, doesn’t just want the other person to be momentarily happy; true love wants the other person to be well. Joy is a natural by-product of being well in your soul. I don’t want a depressed drug addict to keep taking drugs even if that’s the only thing that can give her momentary pleasure. I want her to heal. And that healing process is painful, but necessary, to her soul becoming well, and then she can be truly joyful at her freedom from the chains of addiction.
I guess this is the product of both that CS Lewis book and the Henry Nouwen one that Tiff lent me that I’m also currently reading (Here and Now). We don’t just seek happiness or optimism - a feeling that’s tied to circumstance. Circumstances will always find their way to be shitty from time to time. We seek joy - that firmly endures regardless of the situation. And out of that joy one can be motivated to change their circumstances, too.
As a Christian, the firmest source of joy is the hope that whatever the circumstance, Christ lives in us, and has overcome everything. He knows our future and has taken care of it, and He will bring us through it. When we have that knowledge firm in us, there’s no reason to worry about anything. We know that sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
And so a friendship seeks for both people to be anchored in that joy.
Ah, you see, the two books that informed my responses today were books that belong to my classmates. My reflections in this post is also a product of my semester of seeking advice from Evannia and Carmen, letting them know all about my life so that they can feed me with wisdom. This is why one cannot remain alone. You have to actively seek wise advice from people who have walked the road before; read, read, read; feed yourself with information and transform the useful things into wisdom for yourself. My last advice to this friend was to seek wise Christian advice and read Christian material - desiringgod.org, sermons, books, whatever worked for him. Because you can ask God for healing but He can't use what you don't have to shape you. In order to know the Bible better you have to actually read it. In order to know wisdom you have to actually seek it.
In the end, I ended that conversation with “Anything you say”. There was no point fighting, really; he would remain firm to his beliefs, and I to mine. But my reply made me sad. Because I stopped trying to care. And to stop trying to care is to stop loving. And it’s not true - I still care for him and want the best for him and “anything you say” is not my TRUE answer, just the only one I can give as long as one remains unreceptive to wisdom. And I still care for you, and I want your soul to be well, for you to find joy with Christ, because a life with Jesus is an exceedingly joyful one (although not the happiest). You have all the hope you need. And I will pray for that.
I must also say that a semester ago, I wouldn't have been able to say any of this. Thank you, Evannia, Carmen, Theo and Josh for being a part of my life and shaping me for the better this semester. I'm also so grateful for my small group, Yixuan and Bao, for always being with me and strengthening me, reminding me of God's love. Thank you Sau for displaying such care for me whenever I needed it, never leaving me alone. Thank you Tiff for your heart. Thank you Charlotte too, for that night a year ago when I came to your room and cried (you might not remember it, but I do); for the freshman nights we used to pray together, for allowing me to give you strength as you strengthened me in return; for the little Bible verses you've left me. Thank you Janel for that koufu lunch, for sitting with me and sharing your heart with me in order to strengthen mine. Thank you Carissa - for so much, for so so much, I can't begin to describe. Thank you Ami for all our conversations. There are many people who have played some part in shaping me these couple of years, and especially so this semester - I've changed so much this semester, and I'm so grateful that I'm a very different person now from last semester, and from two years ago.