(I have been wanting to do a series of posts about friendship, and specifically about being a friend of God. This is the sixth post of the series. The previous posts are here, here, here, here, and here.)
My best friends, and I, are believers and followers of Jesus. We each met Him separately, and we all have God stories we exchange like baseball cards (“I got saved in 2010!” or “Did I tell you how He healed me in 1997?”).
Similar to Dorothy and the gang in Wizard Of Oz, we had our individual spiritual journeys but found each other along the way. A rag-tag band of spiritual beggars, we sometimes skip, often trudge, and occasionally crawl down the yellow brick road. Together.
Given an option, I would choose to be the cowardly Lion (“all I need is some couuuuurage!”); he is funny, animated, entertaining. Before I met Jesus, I was more like the rusted Tin Man. I didn’t have a heart (heartless), I was stuck in a lifeless state of decay, and I needed Someone else to help me.
Sometime after my daring rescue, God sent these 3 men to prod me along with truth, acceptance, encouragement and love. The questions of when, where, and how we met became less important than the question of why we met. As time has passed, my answer to that question echoed again and again: I needed to learn how to love, to accept love, to become less selfish, to become vulnerable, to trust. These hand-picked men that God sent were there to do the heavy lifting.
Best friends must have common ground or the relationship will not endure. Not to get all preachy but if the common ground is God – Who is eternal – the relationship has a better chance for the long run.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20
Our conversations repeatedly turn to spiritual matters. We introduce each other to spiritual songs, books, movies, sermons, ideas, revelations, gifts, consequences, hardships, blessings, new-found faith. We try to practice rigorous honesty even when it is embarrassing or painful. We know, deep down, this level of vulnerability does not weaken our relationships, it strengthens them. We are only human; perfectly imperfect.
Here’s two great things about being friends with people who know and accept they are perfectly imperfect: (1) they accept that you are also perfectly imperfect, and (2) you have the incredible opportunity to embrace them just as they are. I accept celebrate when my friends are 100% who they are. There are no posers, fakers or imposters in this gang because we have freedom to live out the famous words of the great philosopher Popeye: “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam”.
It might help that we literally say the words, “I love you as you are”. Learning how to love people as they are did not come naturally to this former Tin Man. I learned it from Jesus, Who loves me as I am and expects me to be no one else. My life is not measured against the lives of other people; it is measured by whether I am doing what I can with this one. The freedom that follows this kind of acceptance allows us to be who we are, and grow however God leads us, without fearing judgment from others.
In his remarkable sermon, The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis wrote,
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
For a relationship to endure, mutual respect is a must. When we see each other as immortal, worthy, hand-crafted & loved by God… respect is natural.