“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
~ Proverbs 17:17
It’s one of those days where I’m both amused and fascinated by the fact that I have not seen a single person with a plastic paper bag. Anywhere. It’s just two days after the ban took official effect and I find it amazing how change can take place in the blink of an eye…and life moves on. This reminds me, in particular, of the transitions that my own life has been through over the years and especially after high school. Almost 7 years later, bumping into high school friends who I haven’t kept in constant touch over the years is usually a moment marked with both surprise and joy – the joy of seeing each other again, and the surprise of how we both have changed.
Let’s talk about friendship. Such a beautiful thing, don’t you agree? The life of a Christian is impossible without the sustaining, God-given grace administered through sanctifying, uplifting, stimulating, challenging, encouraging, and – above all – faithful friendships. Proverbs 17:17 expresses it very clearly, that a friend loves at all times. I can attest to the fact that I do have blood-bought brothers and sisters who were definitely born for adversity. They have become family. It never occurred to me how lightly I held onto friendship until I joined my church last year. It was, no doubt, a blessed attachment that put to shame my detachment from fellowship. I have seen dark and sad days in the past year, but they were not devoid of joy. I have been angsty and uncertain several times, but I have never had so much peace. Sometimes, looking around me on a Sunday morning in our church hall, a grateful tenderness fills me. Almost a sense of awe. These faces, young and old – yet every one of them alight with something lovely. Something warm. Every one of them dear to me, someone I can laugh with, talk with, share with as we fellowship or work. And some of them special in a sense that we’ve grown so close over the months it would be hard to imagine life without them.
I hope you agree with me, that we need brothers and sisters around us regularly who share a kinship of what they believe about God, the world, and the reason they exist. Granted, it may not always be a uni-vocal, monotonous agreement, but just enough to go to war together, and perhaps with enough disagreement to get the sharpening sparks flying (Prov. 27:17). My Bible study and book club groups have helped me greatly in understanding this. At the beginning of this year we had a retreat where one of our pastors shared 4 marks of friendship: constancy, carefulness, candor and counsel. It was an equally exhorting and edifying session, because I have been guilty of overlooking some of these marks in my relationships. I can think back to times when the gist of friendship waned because the constancy of fellowship was abandoned. I can also remember instances where I could have boldly warned a friend about a decision he/she was about to make but I did not, and it did not end well.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
~ Proverbs 27:17
So, what are the foundations of a good friendship? What does it comprise of? How do we fight the evils that seek to choke it? Where do we often go wrong? Where do our hearts falter? And how can we can avoid pitfalls and do things better? Well, I hope to learn more of this and grow in it. For today, I am grateful for the realization that friendship is more than what I gain from it: the death of self, and the love of other.
As a Christian, I am to deny my own desires to serve others, to listen well in love and to ultimately glorify God through these interactions. A good friend is worth a fortune. I am grateful for the friends that the Lord has blessed me with, friends now so dear to me who were once strangers. Yet, the Lord led me to them, sometimes against my own resistance. More than anything, I am grateful for the seasons through which these friendships have grown, the trust and loyalty that accompanies them and the grace that has sustained them.
Oh the joy of lifelong friends! 🙂