by Amy Boucher Pye
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
I ran to the kitchen, wondering who was crying and what was wrong. But when I entered the room, I froze. Instead of walking over to my friend Karen, placing my hand on her shoulder and offering comfort, I seemed unable to move. I sensed somehow that her emotions felt too big, too overwhelming, for me to handle. Feeling helpless and not fully understanding what was going on within me, I watched while my other roommate enveloped Karen in the hug she needed.
Those decades ago, when Jesus wasn’t my best friend, I wasn’t a great friend to others. Lacking self-confidence and wrapped up in my hurt and fears, I focused on myself. While in conversation with others I often had another dialogue running in my head—what was the other person thinking of me? Were they finding me disappointing? Were they criticizing me? Stifled by my introspection, I couldn’t be fully present in the moment and reach out to embrace others as they needed to be heard and held.
But as Jesus befriended me, that all started to change—slowly. As I read the Bible I sensed the words coming alive; through them I felt like God was speaking to me, telling me how much he loved me. He valued me and created me in His image. Over the years as this friendship deepened, I learned to root my identity in Christ, receiving affirmation from God. I learned that I could enjoy the freedom of talking with others without simultaneously critiquing myself—I could focus on the person speaking as one similarly made in the image of God and deeply loved. I could marvel at their beauty, creativity, and accomplishments without wondering how I was performing in their eyes.
Jesus found loving friendship in the sibling trio of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They lived in Bethany, two miles from the bustling streets of Jerusalem, and he traveled to them for rest and refreshment. He involved himself in the details of their lives. For instance, he invited Mary to sit at his feet and learn from him (Luke 10:38–42); he welcomed both sisters to share their grief over their brother’s death with him; he counted the cost of raising Lazarus from the dead and brought him back to life anyway (John 11:1–44). He called them to fully become the people God had created them to be, all through the foundation of their friendship with him.
When we think of the friendship these siblings enjoyed with Jesus, we might feel a bit jealous. But we shouldn’t forget the wonderful promise that Jesus made to his friends—that after he died, he’d ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16–18).
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus knew Jesus in person, but we have the Holy Spirit living with and in us! This amazing truth means that Jesus can change us from within. He heals our hurts and soothes our insecurities, which then helps us to be more loving with our families, friends and neighbors. Secure in his love, we’re propelled forward to serve more freely, not worrying so much about our own interests as we put the needs of others before our own. He refreshes us, affirms us, and helps us to believe more fully in him—and in ourselves as he dwells within us. He changes us moment by moment, day by day, more fully into the person God created us to be.
Know that Jesus loves you as a friend. He’ll meet you right where you’re at, inviting you to quiet yourself as you focus on him as he gives you his peace, strength, renewal, love, and simply whatever you need in the moment.
As I look back at my younger self, frozen in the moment and unable to share love, I have compassion for that hurting person. And I feel deep gratitude for the transforming love of Jesus in my life, which continues to compel me to love those around me better.
Amy Boucher Pye is an author, speaker, retreat leader, and spiritual director. She’s the author of six books, including Transforming Love and 7 Ways to Pray, and enjoys leading retreats. Find her on her website and on social media (YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram), and sign up for her monthly newsletter, including a prayer practice for a mini-retreat.