Strategic friendship

By Phillip Garside

Recently, I acquired a piece of art while helping clean my aunt’s house. It is a “memento mori” piece that prominently shows two women fondling a newborn, while the spectator of death looks on. It replaces the picture over our bed, which is more of a macabre Christmas decoration, a magically dark antiquated poster advertising an operatic version of “A Christmas Carol”.

My 9-year-old regarded the new portrait with apprehension.

“This one is going to be harder to make friends with,” she said.

Upon my spouse’s inquiry, our 9-year-old explained that when things are scary to her, she makes friends with them, then they aren’t so frightening. She had worked hard and succeeded with the last portrait, but now she was a little dismayed at having to start all over.

As I survey the discourse on social media, this strategy by my 9-year-old makes me, “Give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike” (Mt 11:25).

Our world seems filled with people striking out with divisive bile at whatever seems scary to them. This divisiveness is contrary to the incarnation, where God comes into intimacy with a world gone horribly awry, a scary world.

The vulnerability of the incarnation is the vulnerability of friendship offered to something scary. I think if we can summon the bravery of a 9-year-old, we can all learn a strategic lesson on friendship and, at the same time, form ourselves after the character of the incarnate Son.

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