Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I am not a morning person.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve had the great intention of waking up early the next morning, and even set an alarm clock, only to casually switch the alarm off in the morning and go back to sleep, profoundly unmoved by the duty that awaited me that day. Well aware of my shortcomings in arising from my comfortable bed, I once asked a housemate of mine the night before a busy day to make sure I’d be awake early the next morning. He hesitated, as he himself intended to sleep in, but graciously agreed to do so. When the next morning rolled around, I initially woke up from my slumber, but feeling sleep-deprived, I decided to go back to bed shortly after, hoping against hope that my friend wasn’t going to check in on me.
Tragically, I was wrong. As I settled into my bed and started to fall back asleep, my friend came by and started pleading with me to get back out of bed. Seeing that words were having no effect on me, he made a drastic decision and came over to sit on me. He continued to talk to me while sitting on me, and after some time, I conceded defeat and decided to get out of bed and start my day. Though it required some, uh, special measures, my friend was victorious in helping me achieve an important task that day.
I think about this story often when I’m asked to consider how people around me help me to become a better version of myself. Over time, I’ve come to realize that good, wholesome friendships are not only nice, they are actually necessary. I hold this to be especially true in Christian circles. The journey that Christ has paved out for us is surely worthwhile, yet not without its difficulties. In a world that does not preach enough the importance of life-giving virtues such as patience and perseverance in tough times, it can help us a great deal in times of discouragement to be able to have a friend to turn to for support, prayers, even laughter (I can assure you that the story above does make me smile in hindsight, though on that morning I was thoroughly annoyed).
We are too often encouraged in our modern society to live a superficial life with, at best, artificial connections with the people around us. However, a true faith-centered companionship allows friends to be vulnerable. I have often found that the vulnerability and empathy that is so important at the beginning of a friendship is often more easily achievable when I share a depth of faith with someone- I am able to more easily let my guard down and open myself up to that person. Out of this shared empathy and understanding, friends will more easily help each other get to Heaven. In the story that I shared with you, victory actually began when I asked my friend to help me in an area of need. Once he knew what I needed, he was able to become a source of accountability to me.
I am not suggesting that we should avoid fostering friendships with non-Catholics. What I am saying is that I believe it is essential to have good Catholic community, where we help others (and let ourselves be helped) to Christ. The Church itself is a missionary community. The list of friendships among famous saints is well-documented: think of Saints Basil and Gregory in the early Church, or more famously, Saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.
Let’s let the Bible take it away. How good are faithful friendships? Pretty sweet, according to Sirach: “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his excellence. A faithful friend is an elixir of life; and those who fear the Lord will find him.” -Sirach 6:14-16
Find a friend to lean on. Maybe they’ll lean on you, too, to make sure you stay awake in this journey of life toward Heaven. And it’ll be amazing.