True friendship is when this silence between two people is comfortable. — David Tyson Gentry
Growing up in the Southern Baptist Church, we had hymns that seem to get repeated over and over and over again until I had them memorized. Every now and again one of them will start running through my head like a particularly irritating earworm, and that I usually can’t shake for some period of time. I have to look at those and see what about it made it come to mind 50 or 60 years later. There’s always a connection, I just have to find.
Today’s earworm was a hymn with the title, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” It was about taking everything to Jesus in prayer including our sins, troubles, and tribulations. It had a good message, I guess that’s why I remember to this day although it was a it was far from a favorite. The word that stuck itself in my mind was the “friend.” Friends are always good things to contemplate.
I’ve been lucky to have friends throughout my life. Some were there for a reason, some for a season, and some, thankfully, for a lifetime. The ones for a reason were usually people who could help me with the problem or at a certain phase of my life where I needed outside help but only for perhaps a short time. Those for a season were like school friends with whom I associated until I went to college. We all lost touch and I’ve never really been all that anxious to renew most of the acquaintances I had. Those for a lifetime were the true treasures I appreciated most and still do. Some have gone on to greater glory, and those have left holes in my heart that have scabbed over but will never truly heal. Some have been there for years, and some for a much shorter period, but all are like precious stones in a beautiful bracelet.
One thing I learned about true friends is what I always called comfortable silence. the friends know them to know each other so well that conversation can have an flow like tides on a river. These are also people with whom I can totally be myself, perhaps with only the thinnest of masks to my total transparency. They accept me and love me anyway
I think where the hymn fits in is that with God, I’m usually doing the talking. Sometimes they are organized prayers, sometimes arrow prayers shot up in desperation, and sometimes just scattered thoughts that come out addressed to God. My brain is usually racing at any given moment so that sitting and just being there is difficult unless I’m with another person. I think God wouldn’t mind if I practiced a little of that with God.
I haven’t yet learned that it is less important to God that I address my sins and wickednesses whenever I talk to God than it is if I put it in more of a dear friend relationship: a relationship where every day details are important and silence is a breathing space for both of us to just sit quietly until something needs to be said. I used to be able to do this, back at home sitting under a particular pine tree on the side of the bluff overlooking my river. It was one of my thin places, and it was as if God were sitting there with me as we watch the wind blow the needles and ripple waves on the beach. It was a comfortable time and I wonder now how I lost it just as surely as I have lost the ability to sit and look at that river.
I have friends with whom I can enjoy comfortable silences. It’s nice to just be able to set and not have to worry that I have to entertain them or they me. It feels like life is just too busy for me to just sit quietly and enter into a companionable silence with God. I think of gotten out of the habit. Perhaps that’s what the hymn is trying to remind me of – that I need to regain something lost: a friend with whom I can share not just conversations but companionable silence.
That sounds good.
What a friend we have in Jesus, lyrics
Image by Linda Ryan: “My tree”