THE SWEETNESS OF FRIENDSHIP
I learned the song (below) as a child in Sunday School. We would all hold hands and sing it in a circle. At the time, it was just a fun song, but as I grew older, I could see the value of its simple message.
Friends, friends, friends,
I have some friends I love
I love my friends and they love me,
I help my friends and they help me.
Friends, friends, friends,
I have some friends I love.
Aristotle said that “friendship is a thing most necessary to life, since without friends no one would choose to live, though possessed of all other advantages.” He’s got a point. Friendship fulfills our lives. Family is one thing but friends add depth to our being.
The Bible says we’re supposed to “share each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2 NLT). “Friends are God’s way of taking care of us,” someone has been quoted saying. The Bible also says that “a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24 NLT). I’ve got a few of those special friends in my life as I’m sure you do. That’s why I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the blessing of friendships.
Interests and lifestyles help determine a person’s unique categories of friends. For me, I’ve got work friends, personal friends, business friends (outside of work), casual friends, childhood friends, friends of the family, church friends, international friends, and of course, social media friends. I also have lots of writing friends, some I’ve never met but I still recognize them as friends. Regardless of the category, friends give us “that thing most necessary to life,” that thing that helps fulfill our existence – friendship.
A dear friend commented as we sat in a swing on a peer gazing at the sunset: “Life really is about our relationships, isn’t it?” We both knew the answer but her reflection hit me hard reminding me that I needed to be diligent to knead those tender relationships especially my friendships. Her question lingered in my mind when she died a few months later from ovarian cancer. I felt as if I could have been the anonymous person who said, “True friendship takes us by the hand and reminds us we are not alone in the journey.” I had done that and it was hard.
Outside of family, my truest and closest friends know me best, maybe better. They know my quirks, my inner thoughts, my personality, my likes and dislikes. I am blessed to have a handful of close friends. Some are childhood friends for whom we still use silly pet names we made up as children. Some have physical or mental disabilities with issues of their own but they still listen to my cries of woe and cheers of joy. Some have ridden the waves of cancer with me and treaded the waters of my heart attack. One served as my supervisor helping me transition into the world of research – some of the greatest years of my career.
Friends often have shared interests and beliefs such as enjoying the same foods, dreaming the same dreams, showing compassion for the same things, and giving God first place. It’s almost laughable how much one of my friends and I are alike. She is such a joy to share conversation, creamy jalapeno dip/chips, and walks. Truly, God brought us into each other’s lives at the perfect time.
Church friends are the ones you can feel comfortable with as you grow spiritually. They are not offended by spiritual conversation and scripture-quoting and are quick to step up during times of crises. Hugs and prayers are freely shared amongst church friends.
Most of my international friends are akin to church friends as they love the Lord. Facebook, mission trips, and personal travel have connected me to these precious friends who deal with unique concerns within their culture. My international friends may be found in India, Uganda, Greece, Moldova, Belize, Honduras, Slovakia, Peru, and Canada.
Just like a marriage, friendship takes work to be maintained. Communication is important but can sometimes be overlooked by distance. For example, with some friendships, you can literally pick up where you left off in spite of a breach in communication. Don’t you just love those kinds of friends?
Author Dinah Maria Craik beautifully describes the essence of friendship in her book A Life for a Life written in 1859:
But oh! The blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly
on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish
thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible
comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor
measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
In spite of my desire to have friends and to be a friend, there is one friend I will never accept or embrace: that is to be friends with the world. “If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God” (James 4:4 NLT). I may live in this world, and I may participate in the things of this world, but to it, I will never befriend. Instead, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I will love the friends God has placed in this world for me as there are many and more yet to be gained.