The Hunt for the Likeminded Friend3:19 AM
I have a theory about best friends, after comparatively little experience. However, that doesn't seem to stop experts from sharing opinions, so I see absolutely no roadblock in sharing my theories. I think that a close friendship involves two two-fold contraries: strength and weakness, difference and similarity. I don't get along too well with those very much stronger than I (and I've been told I have a fairly strong personality). There's no room for my vast reserve of mistakes and weaknesses. But then, I don't get along with those who are weak -- who complain all the time or are repressively awkward or are unable to make decisions for themselves. (That from a girl who feels like an emotional leech most days.) I don't like people too similar to me either; they bother me so much since I have before me a constant reminder of who I am. And that's disturbing. Care for another theory? We dislike most strongly in others what is most wrong with ourselves.
Still, there's nothing worse than someone different than you. Or perhaps not so much different than you as someone who doesn't understand you. Different people oftentimes understand our problems better than our carbon copies, which is why we don't like listening to them. Even knowing that, we acknowledge the general must have in a best friend as someone who is "just like me."
This presents problems if you are different from society at large, such as a homeschooler, a stay-at-home daughter, one convicted in any other way or a genius. Sometimes a person can slide by as a Christian, especially if they aren't one; churches and political parties are filled with those sorts of people. Being a Christian isn't as offensive to the world as being a practicing Christian, and practicing Christians aren't as offensive to the church as so-called Biblical Christians. If you've ever been anyone like me, you've wondered why on earth everyone but you has a sympathetic ear and a special group to join -- in church and society.
I hear many girls -- mostly in the blogosphere, because that's where many congregate -- express deep loneliness at being so "different," at having no likeminded friend even in the local church. I haven't heard of as many young gentleman, but maybe that's because they don't have to worry about the skirts vs. pants war.
A few years ago, I was there. Shy girl, strangely convicted, oddly standing out from everybody. It hurt. I had friends -- I couldn't help myself -- but they weren't good enough. They all had some fault. Dressed too immodestly. Wanted to go to college. Were immature. Didn't share my same beliefs. I found solace in blogs and email pen pals, who shared my complaints about the state of Christian girls nowadays. At least we were different. At least we were Biblical, even if we went down friendless, like the martyrs of olde.
I don't quite know how it happened, but a few years later I have several close friends who look nothing like me at all. Not a single one of my best friends is the same denomination as I or likes my same books or shares my same convictions or agrees with me in every single way. In that sense, we're not likeminded -- not in the sense I was searching for.
Then again, I found girls who looked just like me -- homeschooled, skirt-wearing, homemakers-in-training types who had nothing in common with me. We weren't likeminded, in that sense, at all. I could not spill my heart in front of them like I could my other, different friends.
I wondered at that for a long time. Really, it isn't a mystery at all. I had stumbled upon the profound truth that most "Biblical" Christians have sometimes swept under the rug: the unity in Christ isn't in skirt length, family size, educational choice, profession, income, fringe-line beliefs or anything but the solid rock of Jesus Christ Himself. Even if I felt nothing in common with different Christians, I had everything in common with them. Isn't Christ enough?
For the longest time I had elevated my convictions and decisions above all other friends'. I was self-conscious. I was hungry for acceptance. I was anything but wise and Biblical. The only sense of satisfaction and comfort I gained was from drawing strict lines in the sand -- here's me, the Biblical, spiritual girl, and here's everyone else, who probably hates me and judges me. I still see that going on -- on both sides.
"Here comes that large homeschooling family who wear weird swimsuits. I wonder what else they'll find to silently criticize in me?"
"Oh, brother -- that girl with the tight jeans who listens to pop music. Bet she thinks I founded potato sack fashion."
But the kingdom of heaven is not a matter of eating or drinking or homeschooling or fashion or music or anything earthly, temporary and of less import than humble unity. The mind of unity does not judge the heart by the external. It does not have to appreciate a low neckline or a rap song, either, but it does allow Christ, instead of smaller matters of conviction, to define that sister or brother in Christ. My best friends, I realize, aren't exactly like me, but our commonality in Christ trumps everything. And it isn't contrived. It isn't forced. It is genuine love, genuine acceptance, genuine unity. We talk about our differences. We laugh at some of our differences. And surprisingly, we're really not all that different -- because what I look like on the outside, what I listen to, how I'm educated, is something I refuse to let define me and my friendships detrimentally.
The propagation of our convictions isn't the ultimate goal of Christianity and certainly not "Biblical" Christianity (a sometimes unhelpful distinction, I think). Truly Biblical Christianity centers on Christ, His bride and the humility to understand two common unifiers of all Christians: profound sin and profound grace.
Friend, if you are feeling lonely, hungry for a likeminded friend, check your heart. Do not waste the time I did hunting for look-a-likes instead of waiting for that likeminded, probably different friend to emerge. Do not make eating and drinking a matter of division and importance in your life. Understand that we need Christians different from us to challenge our own thinking, instead of establishing cookie-cutter complacency. Stand by your own convictions, let others stand by theirs, and approach fellow believers on the common ground of Christ alone.
You will not regret it.