Friends

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I wasn’t a good friend in the old days. I was a good drinking buddy but not a good friend. In “Dear World, I’m Sorry” I lament that I took more than I gave. It’s true. No pride here.

That changed after I met Jesus. I’m not an awesome friend yet but I’m a much better friend than I used to be. At least all the Friend Or Foe Surveys have come back with a checkmark next to the “friend” box. I’m kidding… I don’t have Friend Or Foe Surveys; I call them Friendship Quality Surveys.

True friendship fills an empty spot that no other human relationship seems to. I used to be a big fan of the old TV sitcom Cheers. You know, the one about the bar. Go figure. Now I have appreciation for the old TV sitcom Golden Girls. And Friends, and Seinfeld. And The Big Bang Theory. TV shows about good friendships, preferably long ones.

I used to think a true friend was someone who would drive me to the airport. Now I know it’s someone who will tell me I’m “out of character today”. I think it’s their way of saying “You’re a bonehead, man.” Besides, we have Uber now so I don’t have to wake my friends up.

At those times when I don’t feel like talking to anyone, I still answer the phone if it’s a close friend calling, if I can. If they need something, I want them to have it; I want to provide it, if I can. Isn’t it cool when a friend calls you and they are the ones with a gift for you?

That’s what happened the other day. Neil The Walking Concordance called me after I had been rambling around in my head for a few hours, questioning whether the blog (or I) had any significant value. I wish I had recorded Neil’s monologue; it was awesome. His encouragement was valuable to me for two primary reasons:

  1. He knows me well (authenticity), and
  2. he speaks his heart (he is authentic as well)

I had no doubt what Neil was sharing was true in his eyes, and that our mutual Father wanted to encourage me through my dear friend.

Neil and Barry The Builder are very close friends to me. I like to envision that we will be really old friends someday, ten or twenty years from now. There’s no way to meet old friends because when you meet them they are new friends. The trick to having old friends is finding new ones that will go the distance with you, and then make those friendships a priority.

Jesus did that with people. Indeed, the Bible has quite a few references to authentic friendship. I don’t think Jesus was just being lyrical when He said a true friend “lays down his life for his friends”. God, it seems, is big on humans living in authentic friendships. That whole “love your neighbor” thing seems to be a clue. Hopefully your closest friends have wisdom and integrity and grace. Mine do, and I’m grateful for it every time I see them.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Genesis 2:18

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.  Proverbs 27:17

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.  Proverbs 13:20

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.   Proverbs 17:17

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.   Proverbs 19:20

I have the privilege of being friends with my pastor’s parents. They are awesome people, as you might expect. The pastor’s mom once said “Jesus is my best friend! I talk to Him all day.” Before I heard that, I hadn’t considered my relationship with Jesus in those terms. I went home that night and prayed that Jesus would be my best friend too. So began a conversation with Jesus that continues most every day.

When He walked on the earth, Jesus was accused by the religious elect of being a friend of sinners. Prostitutes and tax collectors and cheaters, oh my! And, thankfully, He still is. How else could a sinner find redemption?

When I die, I want only to be known as a friend of God. Perhaps that desire comes from all those years of instigating a rebellion and being an enemy toward God. But one thing is absolutely clear today: the quality of my friendships with other people greatly improved after I began seeing Jesus as my friend. So did my relationship with God.

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