You Show Me Your Friends, I’ll Show You Your Future.

People often ask me what the “secret” to my enduring faith is; how do I – year after year – continue to sacrifice to build something few have ever created like saint Miriam? How do I put the church, and our life here as a community, ahead of everything and everyone? (Yes, including my personal life and my wife and family. Just ask Katelyn. Just ask my mom.)  Many folks want to make it all the way with Jesus, but they’re afraid that something might derail them along the way. Sadly, and usually it does, and often it is themselves and their own fear, or their inability to let go of something, or someone, in their way. I have learned that when they ask this, I know they’re expecting some spiritual advice—possibly a theological truth or a key spiritual discipline. As a priest, I’m all for theological truth and spiritual disciplines, but if there is a secret ingredient to enduring faith, it’s this:  Show me your friends, I’ll show you your future. Your friends, and those you commit to, are your future you!

Relationships with others may not be the most important factor in your spiritual life, but it’s certainly one of the most overlooked. That’s why I refer to it as a secret ingredient to enduring faith and one that causes most to lose their way. I often tell people that God will never ask you to give up one covenant for another, but God does demand preferential treatment. After all, God is God. The mistake I often see isn’t that Christians have too many non-Christian friends, but that people who should be in their primary and intimate circles are actually harming their faith walk. This is why all Christians need to read the Bible (even if they don’t want to do it) and why they need to seriously look – objectively – at who is in their life. In doing so, they will take what they think they know about God and make it more real, more practical, more applied in their everyday walk of faith. The sad truth is that most folks somehow forget that they’re social creatures, shaped by the people closest to them. King Solomon put it this way in Proverbs, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” In other words, again, ‘show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.’

This is why the gathering of community will never cease to exist. Oh, sure, we have livestream and digital and reply and movies and podcasts and apps, but we truly need to gather together, week in and week out, to feel the living Presence of God and to enjoy one another as social creatures. God made us need each other and need God. This only happens when we gather and pout God and our faith community first. Then, what we think is happening is a sacrifice, but in reality, it is our lives being reordered for a brighter and happier future. This is why despite our illnesses, and outbreaks like coronavirus, and depression and financial issues, or whatever the case may be, we still must gather and feel and love.

You see, I have learned the simple truth that happiness will never be complete here, in our earthy form, but for the time we have together we need to reorient ourselves for the best shot at a life fulfilled as possible. As J.D. Greer once said, Our future is shaped less by our ambitions of what we’ll do for God, and more by the company we choose to keep in the present.”  That begins with the simple recognition that your friends, and those you commit to, are your future you.



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