I believe in friendship. Growing up in a rich neighborhood, in a school where what you wore and how cool you acted determined if you had many friends–friendship was important. Your “friends” gave you status. If you had “cool” friends, you were high on the social ladder. If you had “nerdy” friends or not enough friends, you were a “loser.” Boy, it was vital to your self-worth to have the right kind of friends.
I was doomed from the start. I was socially awkward and shy. Trying to be socially accepted made me more awkward and being myself kept me in isolation–It was a lose-lose situation. I was not belittled but I was not important to others either. After years of living in the margins of school social life I thought there was something wrong with me.
Of course, as I grew up I realized there was nothing wrong with me. In fact, there was a name to my temperament–melancholy. And there were great qualities associated with melancholies. I was proud to be one.
As I gained more experience in this hard world and associated with myriads of people at various jobs and as a pastor’s wife, I have not only gained a different view of myself, but of others as friends. I no longer tried to have people like me. In fact, I became very tired of people overall. The more people I met, the less I wanted them as friends. Why? There are truly very few people out there that are worthy to bear that name.
In the Bible, Jonathan was a friend to David. Even though his own father, the king, wanted to get rid of David, Jonathan secretly warned David and helped him escape. He helped a friend who eventually took over the kingship after his father. Jonathan should have been the next king of Israel. He put David’s welfare and interests before his own. Blood is thicker than water? For most, yes. But a true friend sticks closer than a brother.
Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of true friendship. He said “There is no greater love that this–that a man lay down his life for his friend.” And that is what He did, not just for his friends but for his enemies too.
The bottom line is: True friendship is unselfish. Realizing that most people are not capable of true friendship has given me a new kind of appreciation. I thoroughly to the depths of my heart appreciate the true friends that I do have. And I am blessed to have a few in my own church. There were times my husband and I were ready to give up on the ministry, but it was because of the support and encouragement of friends even in face of fierce opposition that we have made it this far. My mom used to tell me, “If I had one friend, I had the whole world.” I didn’t understand what she meant then, but I do now. Yes, true friends are that rare. And I am blessed to have more than one.
I’ve also realized that seeking true friends and shuning all others was self-centered. Was I considered a true friend by others? Would I want to be friends with myself? Ultimately, I cannot control the behavior of others, but I can control myself. No matter how others behave around me I can still be another Jonathan and even more ideally, like Christ to others. Isn’t that what Christianity is all about?
Yes, I believe in friendship. The kind of friendship that sticks to the end and the kind of friendship that puts others above self. I’m thankful for it for it has sustained my husband and me in our ministry. But I vow to not let it stop at appreciation but I determine to embody it to all those around me.
You know, it’s funny and ironic, but seeking to BE a friend rather than seeking to Have friends has finally made me pretty popular. You should try it some time.
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