“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (The Book of Proverbs).
IT IS UNDENIABLY TRUE: HUMAN BEINGS HAVE A NEED FOR CLOSENESS. We may not all need the same amount of closeness, and we may not need the same kind of closeness that someone else needs. For this reason, we should be slow to criticize someone else for being antisocial when, in fact, their need for closeness may be filled in ways that differ from our experience. Nevertheless, closeness of relationship is one of the deep, natural needs of human beings.
As the opening quotation from Proverbs indicates, there is a difference between a “companion” and a “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Given the ways we are connected today, it is possible to have a myriad of acquaintances and associates, and that is good as far as it goes. But we need more than casual contact; we need some closeness. So it is common to hear celebrities remark about the hardships of knowing, and being known by, thousands of people without being close to any of them. Indeed, there is nothing lonelier than the life of a person who is surrounded by people (maybe even admirers), yet the physical proximity of all those people does not involve any closeness.
Opening ourselves to closeness carries with it certain risks, to be sure. There are not only the dangers of rejection and treachery, but unless two friends die at precisely the same moment, one of them is going to have to grieve the other’s death at some point. In a broken world, closeness of human contact is a bittersweet experience — but experience teaches us that it’s a joy well worth the tears it may entail.
Another characteristic of closeness is that it requires work. The deeper into someone else’s heart we go, the more careful we should be about the maintenance of the relationship. Like everything else, friendships fall into disrepair, and so we must work at keeping them in good order and mending them when necessary.
Yet we have still not said the most important thing. That is simply that we need God. Our need for other human beings is only an inkling of our need for the Creator of us all. So making closeness to God a priority — and diligently pursuing that priority — is life’s best endeavor.
“Oh! for a closer walk with God” (William Cowper).