The Friend

The Cross the ladder by which God came down
to us as Friend. The Body. The Blood. The Way
by which we enter a Love we cannot comprehend.

Friend. Now there’s a word, she said,
designed to be as direct as a shiv or a rose,
blood-tipped or red-blooded, “Et tu?” or “true blue”
but you didn’t ask for a definition, did you?

Family. Now that’s easy. After all, blood will tell
being thicker than water which all boils down to
you either are family or you’re not no matter
your disposition at the moment. Right?

No, not a definition, he said. Just this.
That “there is a friend who sticks closer
than a brother,” that Abraham was His friend,
and He called Judas and Peter and so many others
His friends, not just disciples. And why?

But this is One through whom alone we know
what love is, in form, in action, she said.
To whom as His own we are mother, sister,
brother, family, so why need we be friend?

Listen, “my mother and my father have forsaken me
the LORD has taken me in,” not just as my Maker now
but as God-man has bridged the span between heaven and earth.
Can it be? she said. Need we be friend? he said. And how?

Then into the silence His voice ringing in their ears,
the two sitting under a joyful canopy of stars ponderous
with holy thought, holy fear, holy wonder
that God in His grace had extended a hand
as Savior divine, ever-faithful Friend:
“Greater love has no one than this,
that One lay down His life for His friends.”

Scripture references quoted or referenced: Prov. 18:24; 2 Chron. 20:7, Is. 41:8, James 2:23; 1John 3:16; Matt. 26:50, John 15:15; Matt. 12:50; Ps. 27:10; John 15:13

As I was searching for a featured image for this post, one with stars, I thought of Starry Night and remembered reading once that before his suicide at the age of 37, Van Gogh had written in a letter to his brother that sometimes he thought about God and when he did, he went out and painted the stars. Looking at this most famous painting of his, you see 11 swirly stars and under the inky darkness, a cypress tree almost eclipsing a town with a church whose moonlit steeple rises against the night. The cypress tree looms as if indicative of the overshadowing, inscrutable force of nature. Eleven stars – eleven disciples after Judas’s self-inflicted death?  Or Jacob fleeing for his life, looking up at the night sky and seeing the ladder from heaven symbolized by the steeple’s upward thrust? Jacob’s loneliness, Judas’s despair, a sense of futility — these feelings deeply color the vastness of the universe. The best we can do for ourselves and our friends when they suffer is point them to the Friend who has spanned every expanse to come to our side to deliver us from that emptiness, that despair, that loneliness. Christ Jesus, God and Friend.

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night (1889), oil on canvas

3 thoughts on “The Friend

  1. Beautiful painting by Van Gogh, and beautiful verse of poetry to use with it. I never knew that piece of history or fact about Van Gogh committing suicide. So very sad of such a famous accomplished artist. What a lot more he could have contributed to the world if he had not done that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw it in the museum a long while back, each brush stroke made with passion, energy, and a strange emptiness, and in the middle of it all, that church. The sadness of it lingers still. Maybe it was also knowing his life story. May Christ Jesus give us eyes to see, hearts to hear, those who need His light in their darkness.

      Liked by 1 person

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