On kindred spirits
Anne Shirley really knows a thing or two about life. Sure, the little redheaded resident of Green Gables may be eleven and foolhardy and…fictional, but I just love her. And it’s her concept of kindred spirits that I’ve especially appreciated of late. Early in her time in Avonlea, Anne sparks Marilla’s curiosity at her mention of this beloved treasure: “A bosom friend,” Anne explains,” an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life.” And while I’ve been recently practicing reserving the contents of my inmost soul for God alone, I have also been in awe of the immeasurable gift of the deep, virtuous, comfortable friendships I have in my life.
There’s my sister and mother and cousins, roommates and neighbors and old coworkers, fellow churchgoers and RCIA attendees and Bible study members, men and women, young and old. Now of course, not all these friends are kindred spirits of mine. So, what is it that makes a kindred spirit? To borrow a line (or two) from C.S. Lewis, “Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’” I’ve experienced this in a delightfully surprising way with a new friend—yes, kindred spirit—of mine. We met and just knew. We met at brunch, where great friendships are wont to begin, rubbed shoulders at a handful of events and group get-togethers, and finally, there we were, sitting across from each other at a little table in a cozy Mexican restaurant on her birthday. Our very first friend date.
It’s hard to explain, or even understand, the God-given gift of a kindred spirit. But there we sat for hours, over margaritas and nachos and tacos, and shared our hearts. Reminisced and dreamed and encouraged and challenged. She listened patiently and drew me out gently and confided generously. And in those hours that flew by, I felt as if we were caught up in a joyous, delicate dance of giving and receiving, struck by our similarities and in awe of sights yet unseen in the other’s experience. It’s a marvel, and I can’t possibly comprehend it but to say that our momentous meeting originated undoubtedly with the Author of our lives.
I give thanks for this new providential friendship that fills my heart, relishing the mysterious sisterly spark between us, but I consider, too, this all-important question: how can I be a better friend? It’s all well and good to float along in the joy of discovering a kindred spirit, but it would of course behoove me to put in the work of being a good friend. It’s often easy work, to be sure, but it mustn’t be neglected. It’s the work of growing in virtue, of practicing patience, of showing reverence for my friend’s inner workings, not all of which I am privileged to see or know. It’s becoming a better listener, however good I think I may be at it now, listening not to respond but to receive, to ask questions, to soak up the gems she’s entrusting me with. And this growing in friendship requires of me a brave vulnerability, a willingness to offer thoughts and stories and dreams tucked away in corners, to ask for help and prayers and compassion. And as I slowly make my way to becoming this better friend, failing often along the way, the quality of all of my friendships deepens. And I am edified, too, by my friends’ strengths in virtue, by their examples of selflessness, by their earnest desires to love and be loved. It’s simple, really.
From this new kindred spirit I’ve discovered to countless friends along my path over the years, I count each one as a great blessing from God, to be nourished and never taken for granted. While it’s nice to imagine they’ll all just fall into my lap and sustain themselves, it is in truth a comfort to know I have a part to play. And I’m happy to report that I rather agree with Anne, who confesses, “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”