How often are you concerned about making it to Heaven?
Okay, that question was a softball. Here is one that is a little bit tougher:
How often are you concerned about your friends making it to Heaven?
Our guess is that you answered: “not very often” to the second question. If that is the case, don’t worry, we probably would have given the same answer just a few months ago. The “we” here refers to and Rachel Herbeck and Julie Schweich! We are current roommates and (fortunately!) also good friends. Recently, through our friendship and our friendships with others, we both have been seriously convicted about the need to run the race toward Heaven with our friends. The Lord uses our friendships to draw us nearer to Him and therefore into eternal life with Him. He places our friends in our lives so that we might make one another holy. If I am in relationship with Jesus, my goal is to be with Him forever in Heaven, so wouldn’t I want the same for my friends? That being said, we want to share with you three ways that we try to live out our friendship on the path to holiness. To show you how this looks practically in our lives, we’ve included some personal examples.
1. Talk with your friends about how Jesus is working in your life on a regular basis.
(Rachel) This point is one of my favorites because it has borne an immense amount of fruit and joy in my life. Regularly sharing how the Lord is working in our lives gives God the glory and honor He is due, renews a spirit of gratitude and awe in our hearts, and offers our friendship to the Lord in a deeper way. Speaking about the works of the Lord is an expression of praise. We can thank God in our heads and our hearts, but when we actively speak the name of Jesus out loud and tell of His great works, we join in the unending praises of the angels and saints. We then start to see the consistent faithfulness and goodness of the Lord and are led to wonder and awe of Him. As we consistently recognize the Lord together in our relationships, we not only honor Him rightly, but we bring our friendships more and more under the Lordship of Jesus.
(Julie) My friendship with Rachel would not be nearly as joyful or fruitful if it were not for our regular conversations about the Lord. I distinctly remember her asking me about my experience on a retreat I had just attended. Even though we had never shared in this way before, I was so grateful to be able to tell her about a significant experience that had truly lit a fire inside of me and had given me a new zeal for my faith. Since then, we regularly share with each other the ways the Lord is working in our lives and discuss how we want to live out our lives glorifying Him. Sometimes it is uncomfortable to share what feels so personal, but it has brought me so many graces and has allowed me to grow deeper in my personal prayer life.
2. Love your friends in the little things.
(Julie) We are made to love and to be loved. Part of being loved is being known. I don’t just mean when someone knows your name, but when someone knows you were named after your great grandma and your dad’s favorite saint. The knowing is in the details, right? I am sure you can think of a time someone has remembered a detail about your life that made you feel loved and honored. I would also bet one of your friends could point to a time you remembered a detail in her life that made her feel the same. We all have a deep desire to be known by our friends. The deepest desires of our hearts will only be fulfilled by the Lord, who will know us totally and love us perfectly in Heaven, but we can give one another small glimpses of Heaven when we love as Christ loves. He works through our friendships to give a foretaste of His great love.
(Rachel) When I read over this section, I automatically get that one song stuck in my head, “Ooh baby do you know what you’re worth? Ooh Heaven is a place on earth!” If you can’t hear it in your head, then wow I feel old. But how true is that? I experience being loved in this way a lot. And I’m lucky because Julie has an amazing memory for details. For example, about a week ago, I had a long day at work and was not in the greatest mood. When I got home, Julie gave me a mug with a little lion and the words on it: “Aslan is on the move.” 1. I LOVE LIONS. 2. Julie knew that I loved lions and that imagery has been powerful for me in my spiritual life, so she took the time to find the mug and order it online. It was a small thing, but those little things communicate to us that we are listened to, cared for, and known.
3. Be intentional about your time together as friends.
(Rachel) It is so easy to spend time with someone without actually spending time with that person. I know you are catching my drift here. I can’t count the number of times I’ve hung out with friends and we’ve spent the majority of our time on our phones, or talking about nothing that matters. This is where we must be intentional about our time together. Honestly, it’s much easier to hang out, look on Instagram, gossip a little bit – but then there is no fruit and growth in that. Over the past few years, I have learned from incredible people in my life that so much of being intentional in friendships is pushing yourself to a place of vulnerability with the other. This goes along with Julie’s point above; we desire to be loved, to be known, but often times, we feel uncomfortable letting people know who we truly are. In order for us to truly grow in relationship and in discipleship, we must learn how to lean into the discomfort we feel when we approach vulnerability. God’s one desire is to love us and give Himself to us, and when we intentionally use our time to know and let ourselves be known we not only open up more to each other, but we open up more to Christ.
(Julie) Rachel and I have really tried to be intentional in our friendship by leaning closer into deep conversations that naturally occur. One night at dinner, we ended up discussing what makes us feel most vulnerable. We could have let the moment pass, but we both dug in and asked follow-up questions to show we were genuinely interested. If we hadn’t leaned into that, I wouldn’t have known how to love Rachel as well and vice versa. We put down our phones and made a real connection by being present to one another in the moment and purposeful with our conversation.
Leon Bloy once wrote, “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.” Holiness is our goal, Heaven is our goal, and it will be a tragedy if anyone misses out on union with God, let alone you and your friends. Being a true disciple of Christ means genuine and constant conversion; continuously turning our hearts more and more toward the Lord. We need good friends to help us in that process of conversion, to help us fix our gaze on Jesus.
God has reserved a seat for each one of us in Heaven, don’t let your friends’ seats be empty.