I have a friend that is a delight to me consistently, and a friendship with her that is basically "maintenance-free". She makes me laugh more than anyone in my life other than my own sister, and she just "happens to call" when I am angry or when I am crying over something. She lets me talk for years (literally years) about whatever inner mess I am trying to untangle, but she also maintains silence and respect for my privacy over some messes that I am sure she sees -- at least intuitively -- but that I do not wish to discuss with her. We disagree sharply on some parts of life, and agree on others . . . but we love and respect each other, and we need each other. It is mutual.
There are times where we talk daily, and times where we forget each other for a week or two. There are times when one of us has to chase the other down for days in order to connect. There are times when each of us have other people in our lives that we prefer to spend time with, and there is never a time when our friendship with each other would be enough to satisfy all of the different needs and interests we each have. She is the only friend I have that consistently challenges me intellectually. She is also the only friend I have that doesn't read my blog because she has better things to do! (She figures she'd rather hear it from me, I think . . . and for the most part, she already did, before I wrote it down.)
I cannot imagine life without her! But when I met her I had no idea of the connection we'd develop. There was no initial intuitive connection or attraction that I was aware of, nor was there any sense of premonition. It took us several years of being acquaintances and attending some of the same functions before we bridged the wall of social distance and nice "chit-chat" to move into a beginning friendship. That is strange to me, because all of my other close friends are people to whom I was initially attracted, and had the strong sense that I would end up being close to them.
Then she chased a friendship with me! (That is also strange, because I am usually the one who chooses my friends and pursues them, or else there is a mutual choice and pursuit.) My perception of those first few months of deepening friendship was that I just had to keep being nice enough so she didn't feel turned away, and she was back after contact and time with me. I was actually not all that interested at first, but just decided to be nice instead of rude . . .
And here we are, some years later, and I cannot imagine life without her!
She no longer has to chase me, as I said at the beginning of this musing . . . we take turns. (And if there is any imbalance in interest, I would guess right now that I'm more invested in the friendship than she is, and not the other way around.) And she is actually the most compelling of my friends to me these days, because I know her well enough to know how amazing she really is on every level -- both in how she thinks and in how she lives it out.
I cannot imagine that we would ever not be friends, no matter what happened. I cannot think of anything she could do that would make me walk away, and have the same sense of her commitment to me, no matter what. I also do not feel engulfed by her or possessed by her, and I believe she feels the same freedom with me. We don't need to cling or to run away . . . we don't need to pay attention to each other when we don't feel like it, or hide the need for each other when one of us feels the need to connect. We love in freedom, trusting the other's love, but not being controlled or possessed by it . . .
So this is phileo -- that form of love between friends that has none of the overlay of sexuality found in romantic relationships and none of the underpinning of forced commitment found in family relationships. C.S. Lewis wrote very eloquently on it in The Four Loves, and it is one of the sweetest things I know in this life. We are companions and partners and confidantes and sisters. We are true friends.
God has given many good things to the people He has created! Our Savior, the Holy Spirit in us and among us, the Church, the majesty and beauty and abundance of the world we inhabit, our sexuality, romantic love, our parents, our children, our personal characteristics and gifts . . .
But today I am grateful for the mystery of simple friendship! Simple, uncomplicated, undramatic friendship . . . sweet joy and sweet refuge and sweet relief!