Life of the Beloved: A Reflection on Friendship and Being Known

Stephanie and I have a meeting tonight with some friends who have invested much in our lives.  This group of men and women cared for us as we recovered from my wrong choices years ago, and we have met with them periodically ever since for prayer, guidance, accountability, encouragement, and on-going care.  They have given up time from their own families and colleagues, skipped potential vacations and trips, given financially, put their recommendation and word on the line, and they have done it all out of their love for us, and their love for Jesus Christ.  The more I reflect the more grateful I am for them and the many Christians brothers and sisters like them.

I thought of my friends specifically today as I finished reading Henri Nouwen's book The Life of the Beloved.  Nouwen was a Catholic priest whose books have always resonated with me.  He writes about Christ meditatively based on his own emotions, struggles, insights, and reflections.  I am touched by the vulnerability that comes out in his writing and inspired by his obvious love of Christ and desire to know Him more intimately.

The Life of the Beloved is a letter written to a close friend published as a book.  Nouwen struggled for much of his life to find a lasting closeness and intimacy with his fellow man and woman.  In many of his writings he reveals a yearning to love and be loved, know and be known, more deeply.  As I read the book today I thought of my own friends and the way we spur one another on to life in this world, and life with Christ. It is much better to be well-known by a few (intimacy) than to be well-known by many (popularity).  being popular was Nouwen's problem, and the desire for notoriety one of my greatest temptations.

The desire for notoriety because of some cosmic contribution to the world gets in the way of living vulnerably and contently with those around you.  Facebook friends and Twitter followers give the illusion of popularity, but when the technology is turned off you are left with what is  true.  It is then you must look at yourself and ask, "Are you striving to be well-known, or to be well-known?"  In one you will find satisfaction and joy, and in the other is an on-going struggle to be fulfilled and deeply loved not just for what you do, but for who you are.