Anita and I first met at Bible College. She was the intent student in the front row and I was the lecturer teaching Old Testament theology. A word from God and some thoughtful initiative on Anita’s part meant that we soon became friends. Fast forward twelve years and three different apartments, we finish each others sentences and argue like married couples over how to pack the dishwasher. We go to church together, share meals together and attend Christmas together with our families. She was there when I received the phone-call about my dad’s heart attack and I was there when she lost her job. She’s taught me about humanitarianism and how to make quinoa and I’ve taught her about hearing God’s voice and how to enjoy camping.
Lately when the storage costs became too much for one, we pooled all our furniture and this year we’re planning a holiday together overseas. The truth is that while both of us have experienced a dearth of suitable male suitors, our friendship has been a God-given lifesaver. Both in our 40s, finding a great flatmate is near impossible and sharing living costs makes good economic sense. Her loyalty and encouragement mean the world to me. It’s been difficult to find the words to define our friendship. She’s a best friend, but not like the ones at high school. She’s a flatmate, but we’d still share a place if we didn’t have to. She’s a spiritual sister, but not like others in church who’d describe themselves that way. Covenant Friendship The best parallel we’ve come up with is the relationship between the biblical characters David and Jonathan. For David, the love of his friend was “better than a woman’s” (2 Samuel 1:26). They were “bound in spirit” and Jonathan loved David “as himself” (1 Samuel 18:1-4)
The wording is so strong that plenty of questions have been raised about the exact nature of their relationship – which doesn’t surprise me since Anita and I have had our own fair share of quips. People find it hard to believe that a close friendship can be anything other than sexual. What is telling is the word used to describe their relationship. In David and Jonathan’s world, ‘covenant’ was the terminology given to describe a strong commitment by two parties to one another. Theirs was a relationship that extended beyond the realms of friendship. It meant they protected each other, stood up for one another and celebrated the call of the other above their own. They were sworn to seeing God’s purposes fulfilled in each other’s lives. For Jonathan, that promise extended even to the point of death. It’s clear that Jonathan was God’s provision for David and that the relationship was just as potent for him as his marriage. Jesus too recognized the power of the Spirit to seal relationships that were as valuable as traditional ones (Matthew 12:48-50). Covenant friendship can be God’s provision for singles just as much as marriage can.
By Tania Harris
Tania Harris is a pastor, speaker, author and the founder of GodConversations.com, a global ministry that equips people to recognise and respond to God’s voice. With a diverse history as church planter, pastor and Bible College lecturer, her ministry is known for its biblical depth, practical wisdom and ‘God-stories.’ She speaks to groups of all ages and denominations and is a popular voice on radio in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Currently Tania is completing her Doctorate in Ministry researching peoples’ experiences hearing God’s voice. Tania is an ordained minister with the Australian Christian Churches. Hillsong is her church home in Sydney, Australia.