“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…'”
– C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves –
We all know why the ugly duckling thought he was ugly.
We call it comparing apples and oranges, that way he measured himself by what he was not. His fuzzy gray wings–turning white, made for soaring–would never resemble the gleaming, multi-colored plumage of the adult ducks. His ugly feathers made him fear that he would always be an outcast, fitting with neither the adults nor the adolescents. None of the other ducklings were gray. None of the others were turning, slowly, white. But his gloomy contrast to his fluffy yellow siblings was not a true comparison at all, was it? He was a swan, not a duck. When he saw swans skimming across the sky, he felt the connection–the call of the sleek birds that resonated within him.
That’s the grace of sameness, the gift of friendship. When God made us, He formed each of us into a distinct personality, complete with skills, expressions, desires, and a future than no other person shares in the exact way.
But, in the middle of this distinctiveness, He placed a capacity to belong. He sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). Not just biological families, but in groups of acceptance.
What if God had made us all to be loners, incapable of finding a true place to simply be?
Instead, He created a niche, a place where we could say “What? You too?” There’s another person who “gets me,” more of the same kind as me, people who accept that I am one of them. This sharing goes beyond external preferences to the inner person–there are people that, however different, still embrace and understand.
Of course, we’re all at different places. Just because God created us to be relational creatures doesn’t mean that relationships are pain-free, does it? I remember lying on my bed as a little girl, crying, because I just wanted a friend–a real friend. Some days even now, I ache for the far-away people I love, wishing I could just give them a hug or hear them laugh. In a curse-laden world, loneliness still happens. Estrangement still happens. Sin still separates.
Yet, there is light in the dark, however fragile it may seem. With gospel-grace, some families cling together in redeemed relationships. Some friends still live out fifty years of fellowship, growing closer as the decades roll. Some marriages, bound together by the love of Christ, still endure till death truly parts. In a world where it is easy to get lost, we still have the hope of finding a home.
Some of you read this with sadness-you haven’t yet found a home as secure as that. Has God made you relational in vain? Has He given you a capacity that He will not satisfy?
For you there is a home–and a home for every one of us, whatever the state of our families or friendships!
Ultimately, your craving for a place was created to be filled by the Only True, Living God.
HE is your hiding place, the secure home where you can rest and be known fully. HE is the One who will take you in and be Father and Friend, the One who understands you because He made you like Himself.
We sons of earth all share an image, like a wax seal imprinted on our foreheads–a seal that proclaims “You are in the image of God.”
There is no surprise that we feel an affinity for one another–a bond unites us, the Signature of the same Artist.
And yet the greatest tie is between each of us and this Artist–and we discover that we were formed to be like Him. Like Him–not as omnipotent deities, but as living, feeling, eternal spirits with knowledge and capacity and ability to love. We were formed to be glorious replicas of Christ, on a smaller scale. But, oh, what we have done to mar the resemblance!
Still, do not fear. All is not lost. You and I are not doomed to search forever for belonging, only to find that no other says, “You too?”
Jesus stepped into a planet He made, walked on dirt that a breath of His could have turned into more men, touched plants that a single word of His could have cause to shoot up to the heavens or wither to the dust. He was not so “Other” that He was untouchable–He made himself touchable. And, in being touchable, He gave Himself over to still more vulnerable things: to the anguish of one friend turning another over to death, to the ridicule of such an unimpressive physical figure claiming equality with the High God, to betrayal from all, to being scarred.
How, how, how could a hunger-less God be faint with famishing pains in a desert? How could a God sweat anguish, first in the wilderness with the brine of humanity and then in a garden with His very blood? How can God have blood, have dependency on the rushing liquid trapped in narrow veins? How could God be Immanuel, with us? He came. Felt, hurt, bore–all this. For us.
Now, when we meet Him on the road, we look around in surprise and say, “What, you too?”
And He shows us the deep scars that can erase ours, and smiles. “I too.”
And then, as He sets His love on you, something changes. The sin of your heart breaks you and you run to Him. Something happens.
Whatever may come of human affairs–all the intricate, endless relational tangles–something truly remarkable has happened.
“Friendship is born at that moment.”
You’re not an ugly duckling anymore. You’ve found a place to belong. Free in all your God-planted individuality and gifting and unique opportunities, you don’t have to search for a nest. And with His two words “I too,” the bond of love pulls your heart into a family of God’s bought ones, siblings also adopted, twice-born, accepted.
You are home.
“You are not alone
I will always be with you
Even to the end
You don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
So you can rest easy
Do not be afraid
Nothing, nothing in the world
Can come between us now
You work so hard to wear yourself down
And you’re running like a rodeo clown
You’re smiling like you’re scared to death
You’re out of faith and all out of breath
You’re so afraid you’ve got nowhere left to go
Well, you are not alone….”
– Andrew Peterson, lyrics from “Rest Easy” –