We learn the value of a friend in the very beginning of our lives. From those early times of skipping rope on the sidewalk, enjoying neighborhood baseball games, or lunchtime in the cafeteria during middle school, we find ourselves gravitating toward particular people, even as children.
As we mature into adulthood, those relationships become even more important, and the role held by someone we trust, whose company we enjoy, grows as well.
This need that is evident throughout our lifetime was observed by fourth century church father Augustine.
“In this world two things are essential: life and friendship,” he wrote in Sermon Denis 16,1. “Both should be highly prized and we must not undervalue them. Life and friendship are nature’s gifts. God created us that we might exist and live: this is life. But if we are not to remain solitary, there must be friendship.”
Augustine had it right. We need friendship to keep us from becoming solitary, a state that is not healthy for our life, and certainly not conducive for our happiness. The joy found in good company is obvious and much needed.
In Genesis 2:18 we read about the account of the forming of Eve, who is about to become the very first friend to Adam. Of course, she would also become his bride, not to mention the fact that she would go on to have a rather eventful meeting with a serpent. But that is another story for another time.
The key in this passage that applies to this reflection is that God said it was “not good that man should be alone…” That state of isolation was not good for Adam. And it is not good for us, either.
Whether married or single, we need relationships in our lives that keep us from isolation, a condition God calls “not good.” Friendships greatly enhance the quality of our lives.
Jesus walked for three years with a group of friends, but even among the 12 disciples there were clear distinctions in the closeness of relationship. There were three who were closer than the rest, and of those three, one (John) was identified as the disciple Jesus loved. It was to that man that Jesus, while on the cross, assigned the guardianship of his own dear mother.
It is important for us to nurture friendships in our lives. Such closeness as what a true friend brings only happens with nurturing and time spent doing life. But make no mistake, it is time well-spent.
As Augustine said, there are some things that are essential to a healthy life. A good friend is one of them.