Today is my birthday and I am turning 34! Wow... hard to believe. I don't dread getting older. I have loved the journey. For some reason this birthday has me thinking about one of the best gifts I have- friendship. Maybe it's all of the precious birthday wishes and people expressing a little more than they do on an average day.
There was a time I don't think I knew much about being a friend. I knew about hanging out. I knew about looking good. I valued liking the same stuff. I liked playing. I knew very little about friendship. I know I have a long way to go but I wanted to write down some of what I have learned, in many cases, the hard way.
Friendship is important... no vital to our growth. Jesus deeply valued friendship. He had best friends... people He poured out his heart to... people He lived life with each day... friends who betrayed Him... friends who stood by Him all the way.
Friendship will bring great joy and great pain. Opening ourselves up to humans in a deep way will lead to some of the most amazing moments of our lives. It will also lead to some of the most painful moments of our lives. We can not shrink from the pain without hiding from the joy.
John 15:13 (The Message)
11-15"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.
A friend will point you toward Jesus. A really good friend will know how to let you vent and fume before they do this! ;-) They will let you just RANT and RAVE and they won't correct you. They'll tell you how sorry they are. They'll understand how you feel and then ever so gently they will point you toward truth, kindness, sacrifice, forgiveness, loyalty, love, and gentleness. A good friend would never point you toward hate, revenge, lust, lying, slander, or selfishness. The best kind of friend will even just cry with you.
Job’s Three Friends
11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
A friend doesn't tell you what you want to hear. A friend tells you what you NEED to hear. If it weren't for friends who have pointed out my ugliness over and over throughout the years I just don't know where I'd be today. I feel so thankful for this that I could cry. Accountability is not something I longed for but it is truly something God gifted to me. I had no idea what a gift it was. This kind of friend loves YOU more than they love trying to keep your friendship. They will do the thing that helps you even if it means they will lose you.
Proverbs 27:6 (NIV) “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
To be a friend I must be willing to dive deep. I can't stay in the shallow end of the pool. Those who stay in the shallow end with me are called "acquaintances." I can love them but they are not truly friends. When I was younger I was famous for knowing everything about everyone and rarely ever opening up myself. I made the mistake of thinking this was strength. I didn't want to burden people or be demanding. Fortunately, I had some good friends who sat me down and told me the things I didn't want to hear so I could grow and change.
Ecclesiastes 7:5 (NIV)5 It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.
I must be authentic to have true, deep friendship. Friendship isn't about being perfect and pretty. Friendship is very often quite the opposite. It's often built in the trenches of life as we get real and stand together in our pain. Pretending we are ok, or strong, or anything we are not just puts us in that trench alone. How can anyone truly be our friend when we haven't ever let them know who we are? When we become real then we aren't alone. We can grow and change and help each other.
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
10 If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Friendship takes time. It's not something you can fast forward or rush. It's often formed or proven when we least expect it. It's a gift not a right. The gift of true, Godly friendship is one we should plead for from our heavenly Father. When it is given we should protect it with our whole hearts. We should fight for it knowing that it will make us more than we thought we could be. Never underestimate the value of friendship.