Monday, June 6, 2011

Friendship (Part 1)

I have been thinking a lot about friendship recently. Mostly I have been thinking what an incredible gift it is.

College was one of the best times of my life. I absolutely loved it. My years there had a hugely transformative effect on me. It wasn't because FCC is some academics powerhouse or super holy place, it was because of the people there. The people that mentored me, the people I mentored, and perhaps most importantly the friendships I formed. I began to discover how rich and deep and wonderful friendships with fellow believers can be. We laughed and learned and got mad at each other. We battled sin together and talked theology together and worshipped together. We ate together, shared together, lived together. My friends from college are some the people nearest and dearest to my heart.

Then we graduated.

I am a bit different than most people I know. I grew up in the same house, in the same town, going to the same church my whole life. I never lived anywhere besides South Daytona before I went to college, and since home was only an hour away it never really felt all that far. I have never had to say goodbye to my best friends before, knowing we would never be together in the same way again. It is heart wrenching.

China kind of threw all of that into overdrive. Not only was I leaving college behind, never to return, I moved across the world to a place where all my relationships were starting from scratch. The first while here was really hard. I told people I didn't have culture shock so much as moving shock. It wasn't weird food or foreign language that was getting to me, it was the complete shakedown of the etch and sketch of my relationships so that I was left basically with a blank board. All there was to do was simply start turning those knobs again and building things back.

It takes a lot of time to fill up an etch and sketch. I didn't really expect to make much progress.

Turns out, I was wrong. I have been incredibly blessed here in China with wonderful friends. Friends who make me think, who make laugh, and who make me grow. And the cycle of loss from college to now has made me appreciate what I have, right here in the midst of it. Community is a wonderful beautiful thing. No wonder the New Testament talks about it so much. Godly friendships are incredibly formative.

~J.L. Smith

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