Since starting at L’Arche one of my favourite pastimes during my few hours off every day is to head to the gym. Although I am not super athletic nor do I have that much motivation to really build muscle, when I am at the gym I become a different person. The machines and free weights have become my second home and there is nothing like taking pride in lifting 5 pounds more than you did the previous day. As I reflect on my gym time, though, I have become aware that I spend more time on my physical health than on my Spiritual wellbeing. I exercise my core muscles but then forget to exercise spiritually. What I have learned, though, is that by carving time out for Christ there is always something He seeks to show me. Even if He doesn’t, it’s the fact that I have made the effort.
Jesus is my best friend, but so often I make time for human friends and responsibilities over Him. It’s as if you have a close friend who is always there for you, will drop anything for you, and inconveniences their own plans for you. They hold you when you cry, throw the biggest celebrations for your achievements, and get you the nicest birthday gifts, only to have you forget about them. You’re basically a one-sided friend. You never even call or text them on their birthday and when they become a parent you don’t even bother to congratulate them. That friendship will become strained. In fact, it likely won’t survive. Yet that’s what we do to God all the time! We call on Him when we need His help and ignore Him the rest of the time. He’s not a genie in a bottle who grants three wishes! He’s interested in so much more than that – a living, breathing, relationship. And we short change Him by our attitude of praying only to receive blessings!
Being friends with someone is a commitment. I expect my friends to be there for me, yes, but I also have to care about their lives and encourage them. It takes time to create the tight, inseparable bonds of a friendship – it’s not as easy as it looks. Being friends means you can share the deepest aspects of yourself with the person, it’s not just about who you can play pick up hockey or eat pizza with. I have known my best friend for nine years and yet there are still days when I learn things about her. There are still times when I realize she has thoughts and aspirations that I was never aware of. And it’s the same with Christ. I’ve been a Christian almost 20 years and yet every day I learn something new about Jesus. You never give up studying your friends. You never give up trying to figure them out.
We become like the people we spend the most time with. I am constantly aware of my vocabulary and life philosophies are shaped by the people I live with. For example, in my first year of university my roomate used to always say “awesome” and “deal” and I realized that I began to say this as well. Now, at L’Arche, I use some of the quirky sayings that the core members bring up. I also have become a lot like my friends because your friends reflect a huge part of who you are. So, if we truly want to become like Christ and exemplify His loving character we daily need to come into Him. We have to follow His lead. Faith cannot be convenient. Otherwise it’s taking the “Christ” out of “Christianity”. It has ceased to be “Christianity” and has simply become our own moral version. We’ve stripped Christ and left it at “Ianity”.
We don’t get to pick the things we like and disregard everything else. If we do it’s like me going out with my Tyndale buds who believe drinking to be a sin and ordering not one Vodka but three. It’s like encouraging a friend from church to go to the casino with me knowing that they disapprove. But that’s what we do to Christ! We are friends with Him on Sunday or at Bible Study, but the minute we give into temptation it’s “friends-off” because He inconveniences us! Who wants to be friends with someone who is constantly shifting? One minute we’re best friends, the next minute we’re not talking? That’s so pre-teenish! If we are to mature and GROW UP in every way into Christ who is the Head we need to become more like the adults we are!
Paul tells us that we are to shine like the stars in the universe even in a wicked and perverse generation. Whenever I look out on the darkest nights and see stars lighting up the sky I am profoundly happy. Stars orient us. We won’t get lost as long as we follow the North Star. Paul wants us to follow the North Star (that is Christ) and to be constellations which point our non-Christian friends and peers to the True North. This is only possible if we ourselves come into Christ. Let’s do everything we can to cement that friendship!