“Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
I didn’t have a lot of Orthodox friends growing up.
My family moved around a fair amount (the life of a Clergy kid!). The communities I lived in weren’t particularly large to begin with, so while I was around the Church all the time, very involved in GOYA and camp, I didn’t get to know that many Orthodox kids my age. And in a time before cellphones and Facebook, the friends I did make were limited by proximity; so moving meant losing old friends and having to make new ones.
Growing up, my friends were primarily people I met outside of Church—friends from school, or extracurricular actives. They were people I had something in common with, people whose interests were similar to mine. They are wonderful people, many of whom I’m still very close with, but I couldn’t help but think I was missing out.
Even into my young adult life I found that most of the friends I made weren’t Orthodox. I knew them from work and college. They are people who like and read the same books I do; people with whom I’d bond over a shared love of some obscure band, or something arbitrary like how they prefer their coffee.
The Orthodox friends I made over the years shared a deeper connection with me—a similar love of our faith and common morals— but they were spread throughout the country.
While I loved and valued their friendship, I didn’t have the opportunity to see them as frequently as I would have liked.
And that left me with an entire part of my life, the most important part of my life, which I couldn’t share with many people. My Faith became part of me, tucked away in a corner: I knew it was there, and I knew it was important, but I never had the opportunity to explore or experience it with other Orthodox Christians.
When you’re a kid all you need to establish a connection is for someone to share a toy with you, or to have the same favorite dinosaur. When you’re in high school connection becomes based on proximity, so you become friends with people in your classes or who do the same extracurriculars. In college you tend to connect with people who chose the same major as people with interests common enough to base their degrees around.
But as I got older I realized that, even if you and your friend both prefer gummy bears over gummy worms, it doesn’t mean that you have a strong foundation on which to build a friendship.
Your candy preference doesn’t necessarily mean that you share the same ideals, the same views on the world, or share the same values.
Your candy preference, or some other shared interest, is just a piece of you. But there’s a deeper form of friendship which demands, not just something about you, but you.
In your entirety.
As my friends from high school or college all started to grow up and form our own vision of the world, it became clear that whatever common interests didn’t necessarily translate into the intimacy and vulnerability that characterizes true friendship.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:11-12)
In 2013 my sisters and I went Greece with a handful of other Orthodox young adults. Spiritual Odyssey (the young adult trip offered by Ionian Village) was only a short ten days long, yet by the end I had made better friends than during my entire four years in college.
Of course, part of that is because we were forced to spend every minute of every day together, but we all went into that trip having one very important thing in common:
We were all Orthodox.
And that connection was more important than anything else.
Our common connection through church and faith allowed us to immediately know what was important to one another. We were able to go into the trip comfortable with one another on a level most people don't reach even after a year of friendship.
But after only a few days together, we had been able to have heartfelt and serious conversations about our personal lives, meaningful conversations about our relationships with God, and lighthearted conversations about similar interests and our lives back home. But one thing was for certain: our friendships were more dynamic and meaningful than the relationships I’d been cultivating with other people my entire life.
No matter how many of the same books or movies you have in common with someone, it doesn’t mean they will be willing to lay down their life for you. Or you for them.
But even at a young age, I always felt that the friends I made inside the Church were different than those I met at school or work. My friendships were always built out of similar interests, but those Orthodox friends I made had something more than shared interests.
We had shared beliefs.
Specifically, a shared belief in Christ, in a God who loves us so much that He was willing to die for us; a God who calls all of us to be ready to lay down our lives for those we love.
And that’s the most important thing you can build a friendship upon.
Charissa is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. Charissa grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah where she studied political science at the University of Utah. She enjoys sunshine, the mountains and snowcones. Charissa currently lives in New York City.