Chapel - Natalie Yoo

Natalie Yoo

In continuing our summer series of reflections in the Book of Proverbs, Natalie Yoo shares a message on friendship (Proverbs 18:24) and invites us to reach out and receive one another in Jesus’ love.

Natalie Yoo works as a psychotherapist for Tyndale Wellness Centre at Tyndale University.

Speaker: Natalie Yoo
Chapel Date: Tuesday July 12, 2022
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Podcast Transcript

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our continuing series of reflections on the book of Proverbs this summer.

My name is Natalie Yoo, and I am one of the psychotherapists here at Tyndale Wellness Centre. It's my pleasure today to share with you some thoughts on friendship based on Proverbs 18:24 which says,

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”.

As Christians, we are created to be in a relationship – with God, ourselves, and others. We see this materialized through the life of Jesus, who showed us the perfect example of what it means to be a good friend. As his followers, we are encouraged to befriend one another and stick close through thick and thin in body and spirit.

When I think of the word ‘friendship,’ a few people come to mind. We are all very different in terms of our background, personality, age, likes and dislikes, gifts, careers, and whereabouts in our faith. However, they have been the ones who continue to bear my shortcomings, and offer love and support even in times when I can’t offer anything in return.

I chose this topic as there had been some significant changes within my close circle during the pandemic. Two friends moved away to another country and one friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer. All of this happened out of the blue and I am still in the process of grieving. But then again, it is leading me to think of what friendship is about - something that I would have taken for granted if it hadn’t been for these changes.

I also share this with you as I get to hear a lot about people’s struggles with loneliness. We are aware that true friendships are not easily found, let alone maintain. There are all kinds of barriers that prevent us from receiving or reaching out. Shyness, lack of confidence that someone will find me interesting, difficulty in trusting people, pride or a sense of inferiority, life stages and priorities, laziness, fear of disappointment and rejection, control issues... are to name just a few.

I understand that true friendship is so much more than what words can say. It surely is something that has to be lived and experienced rather than theorized and analyzed. However, please allow me to use this opportunity to share with you some things that come to mind as I ponder on this topic.

To begin with, true friends offer presence. Jesus enjoyed spending time with people God sent his way. He knew them already inside out; their past, present, and future, but he spent time with them nonetheless. He intended to provide them with an experience of the loving, listening presence that is offered to all who come and open up to him. Jesus was very intentional with his presence as he had a clear goal in mind - to bring everyone back Home where they belong.

My friend J. once told me that she felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to stay by my side while I was going through some tough challenges. What she offered wasn’t anything special – making time when I reached out, just sitting with me amid my despair, confusion, fear, and even doubts about God. What I find amazing though as I look back is that she remained faithful to her calling over the three years of my journey towards recovery. She didn’t always fully understand or agree with what I had to blabber about. I don’t remember her trying to correct me or give advice based on her sense of what is right. Instead, she made tremendous efforts to see things from my perspective and empathize with me then and there. This time together led us to realize that we’re not so different after all. As a psychotherapist, I know how hard listening is and I can’t thank her enough for helping me create internal space to see things more objectively and get back on track.

Secondly, true friendship stretches us to love. We tend to think of ‘love’ as something touchy and feely, something abstract that cannot be pinned down. However, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us something different. Love is patient, kind, does not envy or boast, is not proud or rude, is not self-seeking or easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. It doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

Knowing how egocentric I can be, I’m very grateful to those who took the initiative to befriend me. It’s not to say that they are perfect in any way. They are people who can be selfish and have needs just like you and me. However, they were brave enough to reach out and had at least one heavenly quality to offer that got me thinking about what I can give in return. The more they gave, the more I wanted to give back, and so went the virtuous cycle.

Morgan Scott Peck, in his book, The Road Less Traveled, defines love as the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth. Yes, love requires our ‘will’ - big time! We have to ‘choose’ to make friends in love against the great temptation to stay status quo or just focus on fulfilling our own needs. And when we choose to do so, we all grow so much in character. And the more we grow, so grows our joy, ever more present, ever more constant.

Thirdly, true friendship bears fruit. One of the distinctive characteristics of Jesus’ friendship is that it was inclusive. He was not a fan of grouping that sets people apart rather than brings them together. Of course, Jesus passionately invested in his inner circle, but the whole purpose was for them to reach out with the power experienced in their fellowship. I think this point carries more weight today as we live in a world that is so fragmentized and broken. And it’s even more heartbreaking to hear of people who didn’t feel welcomed at church.

As I and my friends began to feel secure in our relationships, one thing we became more intentional about is to reach out and invite people into our group. This became easier and less burdensome as we worked as a team. New dynamics were created and they brought about new challenges. However, the process of ironing things out, overcoming the differences, and passing on Jesus added so much flavor to our lives.

It is heartbreaking and nerve-racking to be amidst the changes that is taking place in my close network of friends. On the other hand, however, it feels as though God is asking me: What will you do?

  • Will you focus on the situations that are disheartening you and lose hope? OR
  • Will you make an intentional choice to reach out to make new friends in my love?

I pray that God will give me the strength and courage to say “YES” to the latter as I wish to continue passing on the gift of friendship I received from those who gave it to me.

And I pray the same for you who are listening. I pray that God blesses you true friendships as we commit to become a good friend first to those He sends our way. May we faithfully stick close to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thank you for listening as I wish you all a blessed summer.

— End of transcript —