His mouth is sweetness itself;

he is altogether lovely.

This is my beloved, this is my friend,

daughters of Jerusalem.

Song of Solomon 5:16

While doing some reading on the place of the garden in scripture, I came across these beautiful words about friendship in the Song of Songs, which got me thinking about God as friend.

In Genesis we are given a picture of God’s intended friendship with us, as
we see him walking in companionship with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. But the picture grows cloudy because of their disloyalty to this friendship and in shame they find it necessary to hide away from him. It seems to me that our journey back to the friendship of God involves a choice, a decision if you like, to come out of hiding and into the light.

Maybe the friendship of God is a trickier picture to get our head round, than that of God being our mother or father. A God who is understood as a parent can still be kept at a safe distance. Where a true friend is a different matter altogether, as it’s about intimacy and commitment. If God comes too close what might be exposed?

Sometimes this distancing is part of our human relationships too. We fear that if people come close enough to know us well, they might not want to. This is a challenge of course, because at the same time we long for intimate friendship, to be known as we really are, but we get bruised along the way. Sometimes we wonder and blame ourselves for not being all we think we should be.

What God offers in the Bible are stories where friendship with him touches and heals the darker side of ourselves. There is Isaiah praying in the temple, when one day he sees a vision of God and he feels the terrible weight of his own inadequacy, confronted by such holiness! He says, “What a wretched state I am in! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5). He wants to cut and run. Faith is needed to believe that what God did for Isaiah, he can do for us, but gradually perhaps, in small steps, for we need time to grow in the experience of his friendship before letting him come really close.

I don’t know if any of you have been watching the BBC comedy called ‘Mum’. It’s about a long-suffering widow, Cathy and her growing relationship with her son’s girlfriend, the most annoying Kelly! Kelly mocks everything including herself and giggles incessantly, keeping everyone at a distance and I wondered whether I could sit through a whole episode of her, let alone a series. However, through Cathy’s generosity and kindness, a warmth has grown between the two of them and Kelly’s defensive giggling has eased. In the last episode of the last series we were treated to a line of intimacy and connection from Kelly to Cathy, “I know that you are 4 times as old as me, but even if Jason does go off to Australia and dumps me and I never leave the house again, can we still be friends?” Cathy embraced Kelly and said of course they could with such warmth and tenderness and suddenly I could be friends with Kelly too!

It is a lesson that we all need to learn on our spiritual journey, that our human frailties and weaknesses are never ever an obstacle in our relationship with God. He accepts us in true friendship totally as we are, where we are.

Every blessing, Revd Tanya