I have a best friend with whom I share memes, prayer intentions, and chat about life and God. She’s my “St End” and I’m her “Be Fri”, so together we make a “Best Friend”. For the past couple of weeks, I have woken up every morning to messages that she is praying for me. It might sound amazing, but those little messages make me feel supported in ways I never predicted. When I told her how much it meant to me, and asked her if I could pray for her, she said, “Just pray I can fervently support your prayers”. Wow, right?
And then she started talking about the story of Moses and Amalek. The story goes that Amalek, a great warrior, was fighting with the Israelites. Moses sent Joshua to fight him, and went with Aaron and Hur to the top of a hill. When Moses lifted up his arms, Israel was strong against Amalek, but when he lowered his arms, Amalek gained ground. After a while, Moses’ arms naturally became tired. So, what did Aaron and Hur do? They didn’t say, “Come on, Moses, get your act together, only a few more hours to go.” No. They sat Moses on a stone and supported his arms until sunset, and Israel defeated the Amalekites.
My friend reminded me of that story, and then she said some beautiful words.
“I’ll be holding up your arms.”
Yep, I think I hit the friend jackpot here.
In those six words, she expressed the essence of true friendship. Friendship isn’t always memes and chats and fun. It’s standing by each other in whatever way we can – supporting each other – when things get hard and pointy and even ugly. It’s speaking the truth, which can often be hard to swallow. And it’s acknowledging our limits, vulnerabilities and fears. Maybe you’ve known friends who have distanced themselves or moved on when things became hard for you. Maybe you’ve done that yourself with others. True friendship is beautiful, but it isn’t easy, because it involves a call to remain with the other in everything, even in the battle, and to try and help them to become the best version of themselves by being true and authentic with them.
In our time of COVID restrictions and lockdown, friendships and connections have become increasingly more virtual. We’ve become reduced to Zoom meetings, working-from-home, and FaceTime chats. On the one hand, virtual interaction connects us in ways we never really thought possible. On the other, it can leave us feeling isolated and alone. We can yearn for those face-to-face interactions, for the way a hand feels when you take it in yours, for the almost crushing strength of a hug from someone who loves you, for the scent of the other person that lingers even after they have left the room. All of these yearnings are marks of connection and signs that friendships are good and necessary.
In this uncertain time, perhaps we can focus on the words that my friend shared. We are being called to “hold up the arms” of others, just perhaps not in the ways we know or are familiar with. We might need to look beyond our comfort zone or routines to find new ways of reaching out, and we also might need to seek out the people who depend on us to support them and to hold up their arms.
If we can do this, we may just recognise the true friends in our midst.
30 July is the United Nations’ International Day of Friendship.
Sr Sophie Boffa csfn is a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
This article was originally published on the blog of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Republished with permission.