“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets... Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, 'Here comes one who will augment our loves.' For in this love 'to divide is not to take away.” - C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves
I spent an important month of summer between my sophomore and junior years of college reading this book, The Four Loves. It changed how I thought about friendship.
When girls are young they go through lots of different stages with friends. I watch it in school - big groups whittle down over the years and break off into pairs . . . or quartets that push and pull at each other. Feelings get hurt over favorites. It carries on into high school and college, and I'd love to say that most adults understand how to delight in friendship, but I don't think many really do.
I have learned something important about what real friendship can do: It can light up the world by illuminating a person.
You read Lewis's words. In true friendship we find that our view isn't enough. We want to know how beautifully our dearest friends can shine in the light of somebody else's eyes. I remember the first place I saw this happen.
Summer camp. Isn't that the answer to so many of life's big questions? Just go camping.
I was a camp counselor. For the first time in my young adult life I noticed a bunch of people my age treating each other like equals (for the most part) with acceptance and love. I thought, "I want the rest of my life to look something like this."
I want my soul to expand so that I can appreciate more people . . . but, like a muscle, it won't expand unless it is relaxed. How can a person make their soul relax?
I'm not an expert on the human soul. If you're a thinking person, then you recognize the truth already: none of us can be experts on the human soul.
But many of us have become good guessers and theoreticians. So we hypothesize and experiment . . . hunting for the truth.
This is my college choir singing in Germany . . . or Austria . . . not sure where this chapel is. We weren't perfect by a long stretch, but we tried hard, and for us this was an important song. Our conductor most likely used about 20 years of patience working through 1 year of rehearsals with us. I see that better now that I wave my hands in front of other people. We may have been responsible for his sainting . . . probably he should have received a sainthood after doing his doctoral recital with us. His directing and teaching was important for my musical journey in ways I can't really find words for. Three conductors have made a significant difference in my journey - one in the church, one in high school, and one in college. All were very purposefully present, I am sure. And each one introduced one piece that changed my way of seeing the world: "God is Seen," "The Old Church," and "The Promise of Living."
I remember learning this setting of "God is Seen" . . . it was important to have learned it with these particular people. We were different from each other. In every possible way. It's the first place in my almost-adult life that I experienced friendship through significant diversity. This choir made me want to conduct.
When I graduated from college I knew that I had to find someplace to learn about music teaching . . . where I could be around other people who loved the folk tradition, and other people who wanted joy.
People who wanted joy.
So I met my light catchers. My likeminded community.
I met them at the KIUTC summer institute in downtown Chattanooga, TN. I came in the middle of the summer right after graduating from college and knew instantly that these people were my people.
Here are some of my most important friends.
And a few more from another music program that changed me . . . .
I don't get to see these people very often.
When I was still studying I would see them each summer every day for three weeks. We laughed and transcribed music. And cried and made corrections. And danced like crazy people when our corrections were accepted by our teachers (who also became our friends). We conducted each other and sang for each other. We talked about our students and what we could do better. We shared our frustrations and our excitement about the work. We played games like little kids. We taught games to little kids. We performed and allowed ourselves to be critiqued by one another. That's a big deal. That's trust.
When I visit with these people I remember what it is to have light catchers. We reflect well on each other - and I don't mean that in a professional sense. I mean it in a human sense.
I saw this the other day walking up a city street toward campus and it reminded me of my light catcher people. . .
We say things like this to each other and really mean it - "Be yourself. It's a good thing. We like who you are. We're glad you're here. We miss you when you're gone. We want you to come back."
This is a kind of acceptance I have often felt lacking even in the Church.
Even in the Church.
I found it first among a bunch of camp counselors and then with a group of music teachers . . . and can only find it in little pockets here and there in particularly healthy faith communities. I wish everybody had light catchers like mine. I hope you have some of your own. Or that you find them soon. They make a great difference in how you see the world and yourself . . . and each other. They are a blessing.
Two of my favorite people introduced me to a group called "The Vespers" . . . I love these folks!
This song is right to the heart.
It's so hard for us to find light catcher friends in our world that we think God works like we do. We don't feel accepted by other people and we don't feel like we should accept other people . . . and so we think God won't accept us when we're not "just so."
I'm so glad I've found people here and there to be "my people" and that they remind me that it's ok to be exactly who I am. And I am overjoyed to know who they are. And to love them for it.
God loves you.
God wants you to live.
And there are people in this world who reflect on you in a beautiful way. Go and find them.
Peace & Goodness.