Romans 5:6

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Gratefulness for Genuine Friendship

"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." ~Proverbs 27:17

Sadly, our society has cultivated within us a seemingly natural ability to simply take things, circumstances and people for granted.  Our gross sin nature has a hand in that cultivation, too.  So, what are we Christ followers going to do to counter act that tendency in our own lives?

There are certain things that we come to expect.  We expect the vehicle to run once we turn the key in the ignition.  We expect pay increases after completing numerous tasks at the work place.  We expect to receive gifts for holidays, birthdays and other special occasions.  While these things seem like "no brainers" and things that are generally no big deal, the concept can also be applied to friendship.

This is where the Lord has certainly grown my gratefulness for my friends over the past several months.

Our friendships with others often begin with conditions applied.  My memories of being an elementary student on the playground are flooded with specific conditions that I created and presented to a classmate, or vice versa.  I attempted to bribe my sweet mama into allowing me to have my way when I was growing up by sweetly saying, "I'll be your best friend!" To which she always responded to by saying, "Sydney, I have enough friends. I am called to be your mom."  It seemed like harsh words then, but because she parented well, we really are friends now. 

My thought here is that we carry that same mentality of conditional friendship over into adulthood.  The stake of friendship is not dependent upon if the girl sitting beside you at lunch shares her fruit snacks with you.  The stakes are raised as we get older.

We judge the state of our friendship on what they are willing to do for us, how much time they carve out of their busy schedule for us and the amount they have invested in us, both spiritually and financially.

I have a handful of friends that I know would do anything I needed them to.  I don't have to talk to them every day or every week... or even every month, but I know that when we talk again we will pick up right where we left off. 

A few weeks ago after having supper with one of my best friends, Lynsie, I sat and thought about all of this. I left supper that evening thinking about how much Lynsie and I have walked through together and how the Lord has given me FIVE friends "at just the right time" in order to be His light in my life through various seasons.

Though Lyns and I were in college together, we didn't become close friends until we served in an inner city ministry together while working in the same office at our alma mater.  The Lord knew when I needed her spunky sense of humor, spontaneous dance parties and Godly wisdom the most.

Last night another "best", Joy, came over to our house for supper.  I hadn't seen her in over 11 months.  11 months!  The tears started flowing as soon as I saw her pull into the drive way.  Mascara was everywhere!  When she left, after hours of sweet conversation, I just thought, "Lord, what a blessing!" Joy and I also went to college together, but became close when we were placed in a spiritually dark work environment.  She and I saw what Matthew 15:8 looked like in person. ("These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.")  Rather than allowing me to become self righteous and compare myself with those around me, Joy reminded me daily of Romans 8:28.  She constantly pointed me to Christ when we were striving to be Light together. 

I believe that the Lord strategically places people in our lives for specific purposes "at just the right time".  Honestly, many of us miss this.  Rather than focusing on how the Lord has blessed us with likeminded, God fearing friends, we allow the Enemy to lie to us.  Satan has a predictable way of telling us that we need to "give up" on certain people because they haven't shown us how important we are to them and that we have invested more into the friendship than they've ever thought of.

I have witnessed the destruction of friendship that can take place when we give in to the spirit of comparison.

Rather than distance yourself from the friend who gets her dream job before you, gets married before you, has a baby before you, etc. surrender jealously to the Lord and rejoice!

I believe that the Lord's design for friendship has many aspects, but heavily revolves around Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."

Lydia and I have been best friends since junior high.  She was hands down my first friend to exemplify Romans 12:15.  Her excitement for me when the Lord answers a prayer is uncontainable, and her compassion and sympathy for me as I've walked through difficulty brings her to tears for me.

When the Lord grants us the blessing of friendship, we cannot miss the honor that comes in being willing to rejoice and mourn with them depending on the circumstance.  There is absolutely no place for the mentality of "why her and not me, Lord?" in the life of anyone striving to be Kingdom minded.  Get over yourself and be the friend He's called you to be.

The words of John 15:13 can be difficult to hear, but are so necessary when determining the level of friendship you have with another. "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

Laying your life down for a friend far exceeds the world's standard for friendship.  It's not based on how many times a month you meet up for coffee, how many pictures you have together or how many gifts have been exchanged between the two of you.

Laying your life down for a friend, to me, is not only the willingness to give up your actual life on their behalf if you two are in a life threatening situation.

I wholeheartedly believe that "laying down your life" in day to day terms is simply wanting what is best for your friend above wanting what is best for yourself.

Let that sink in.

That completely defies the "all about me" attitude of the world.

Jessica's commitment to be one of my bridesmaids was maintained despite her having her gallbladder removed just days before.  Her love for me isn't just portrayed through her words "I love you to pieces" but is seen in her actions.  That day, among other instances as well, she "laid down her life", her personal interest to fulfill a commitment that she made in support of me marrying Joseph.  That seems somewhat simple.  But how often are we really willing to endure pain in order to fulfill a commitment to a friend?  Especially when we have a valid reason to cop-out.

I have found that just as marriage must center around Christ, so should a friendship.  Otherwise, that spirit of jealousy I mentioned earlier will take over.  Rather than basing friendship on what someone can "bring to the table" on your behalf, why don't we begin thinking the opposite?

Carissa is certainly my "best" with the sense of wild adventure.  She thrives thinking outside of the box and in situations that would cause me to freak out.  To me, camping in a tent is super adventurous (this hair cannot reach the teasing capacity I know it is capable of in a tent!) but to Carissa, that's mild.  After all, she is my friend that came to college with a machete in her vehicle "just in case".  Carissa and I have had countless conversations sharing our dreams and our goals... and our fears.

Honesty with my friends comes naturally. We tend to keep feelings and fears to ourselves, thinking that once verbalize them we will quickly be judged.  Thankfully my 5 "bests" know me well enough to allow me to be real with them and know how to support me.

Just as friendship cannot thrive when jealousy is involved, it will surly suffer once judgment of one another becomes a factor.

There is a healthy, Godly manner in which we are to approach any issue of sin in the life of another Christ following friend, but judgment is never involved. (Romans 3:23)

To be a friend means to want God's best for their lives, even if they receive a blessing from Him before you.

To be a friend means to put comparison aside, and to appreciate them and all that the Lord has done and is doing on their behalf.

To be a friend means to be willing to spur one another towards righteousness, especially when we don't understand what certain circumstances happen as they do.

To my 5 "bests", Lynsie, Joy, Lydia, Jessica and Carissa: Thank you for being "iron in my life", for genuinely wanting my dreams and goals to be obtained and being 5 of my biggest supporters as I seek to fulfill the Lord's will for my life. I am grateful for your honesty with me, for laughing with me, crying with me and believing in me.

 You are loved much!