C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, and J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were friends.

Unlikely friends, perhaps, as Lewis recounts that he had been warned in his early life not to trust Catholics; and later, not to trust Philologists–Tolkien happened to be both. Their friendship represented, for Lewis, “the breakdown of two old prejudices.”

Their friendship literally changed the world.

Lewis credits Tolkien for helping him cross over from his general belief in God, to his specific belief in Christianity. Lewis goes on to encourage the faith of countless Christians, especially through his books.

Tolkien credits Lewis with encouraging him to complete The Lord of the Rings:

The unpayable debt that I owe to [Lewis] was not “influence” as is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my “stuff” could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought The L. of the R. to a conclusion.

J.R.R. Tolkien, Letters, 362, cited in McGrath, C.S. Lewis–a Life, 199.

Friendship is difficult. Tolkien’s and Lewis’s proves to be difficult.

And few friendships change the world as dramatically as this example. But that’s not my point.

My point is that we must not underestimate the power of encouragement in our friendships. And I’m not talking about so called ‘encouragement’ that only tells us what we want to hear. I’m talking about the deeper encouragement that is committed to bilateral growth–that contains the courage to confront, but always with hope. That not only loves us for who we are, but loves who we are becoming, and is audacious enough to hope that we have a bright future, and that our work matters–even if it seems to fail.

Friendship might not always change the world–but it always changes us.