He called me friend, that Man. He called me friend and I thought I knew.
No longer slave, for I know what the Master is doing. Friend, because all that he has heard from the Father is now made known to me. He holds nothing back, itself a mystery beyond fathom.
I am friend, his intimate. To me he has spoken, that my joy may be full.
Yes, I am friend and this have I known. Intimacy and joy. Loved beyond understanding. Mandated to share that love with others. A learning filled out by doctoral thesis which reached deep into theology of friendship, contoured by experience of friendships gained and friendships broken.
You are my friends if you do what I command you, he said.
And this, too, have I known.
Now he would have me know it more deeply.
Both friends and slaves obey. A friend obeys because of choice, a slave because of obligation. And I am friend, not slave.
He said so.
And yet. There is another kind of slave. The one who is the slave of love. Who receives their freedom. Is released to appropriate the autonomy of one who now chooses. And who…
quite deliberately, quite methodically…
chooses to bind their freedom to the Master. To say the Yes which constitutes a laying-down of one’s life so that there can never again be a choosing. The Yes which is a permission-giving to the Friend so complete that the freedman binds his will irrevocably to the Friend’s.
This Yes of the slave of love is friendship. For it is not obedience obliged. It is free exercise of choice. A choice to bind one’s future choice for all eternity forward, it is true. But free choice, nonetheless. And so this Yes which binds, which gives up its freedom, this act of the slave of love is also the act of a friend.
This Yes of the slave of love is friendship. A friendship which can never be broken.
For the Master who is Friend will never break it.
And the slave of love, knowing propensity to turn, to fall, to kick against the goads, this slave of love has entrusted will to the Master. For will entrusted to him, a will wound around his until there is hardly telling where one ends and the other begins, this is the assurance that slave-friend, also, will never break this friendship.
Friend, yes. And slave, yes. Not a slave who does not know what Master is doing. Not a slave who can be said to have no will of their own, having no legal identity beyond that conferred as agent of the Master. Not that kind of slave.
Instead, a slave who chose the obedience of love to One who already laid down his life on wooden beams. Slave who put ear to the door and accepted the awl by which blood was again found on wooden doorpost. Slave whose heart now branded ‘devoted to the Lord’, whose Yes to the entanglement of will with the Friend’s operates to bind that will to Friend forever.
And it cannot be said not to hurt. This choosing does not remove pull of the could-have-been when soul is faced with possibilities. Soul still reaches, indeed, for this or that. Until, as if by thunderclap, Majesty awakens it. Until it remembers slavery, choice and freedom laid down for love.
For then the awl-pierced heart, wounded by love, responds to Master-Friend’s touch. Soul-depths are drawn after God with pain great, yet sweet.
And, in heart now dissolved with longing, words must fail.
This meditation flows from several days in silence and contemplation, and is inspired by both John’s gospel and the writings of Teresa of Avila in The Interior Castle.