Last Saturday I got a chance to spend some time with a few of my oldest friends at a birthday party in Austin. Two of whom, I have known for nearly 20 years. One was my first friend at college. I met her when I stepped into the dorm elevator during freshman orientation. Little did I know that I was stepping into a life-long friendship. The second friend, I met at a friend’s house my second year of college. Little did I know that when I shook this kid’s hand, he would later become my little brother in my fraternity and the best man at my wedding. BTW, He ended up marrying the girl from the elevator.
The rest of this of this group I’ve known for at least 13 years. To say they know me pretty well is an understatement.
I wasn’t always a good friend. However, I’ve spent a great deal of time and effort becoming one. Many years ago I was known of being unreliable and self-centered. Today, I’m less so. While I can be judgmental, hypocritical, and self-righteous, my friends stick with me. I don’t mind when they point this out. However, it used to bother me 😉
My wife and my friends know me better than I know myself. My friends have seen me at my worst and (hopefully) at my best. It’s easy to be a friend when someone is at their best and life is going well. However, it can be tough to be a friend when life is hard and messy.
As our relationships grow in years, we experience the highs and lows together. Sometimes, life can present a gauntlet for a relationship where the bonds of friendship are tested and stretched. I’ve lived long enough to experience friendships end. I’ve also lived long enough to see seemingly dead friendships experience forgiveness and renewal. Often times, when bathed in forgiveness and grace, the unsalvageable relationship grows and thrives.
When I walk with someone through a crisis, struggle or loss, our friendship is being refined. My group of close friends are dealing with life’s biggest challenges and questions;
- Raising children
- Aging parents and/or death of parents
- What happens when we die?
The metallurgist uses hot fire to remove impurities, strengthen metal and shape it into a useful tool. The same thing can be said of life. Life’s fires refine us, make us stronger and we become more useful in the lives of others.
Jumping in the pit:
There is an parable that goes something like this:
“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.
“A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
“Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
“Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole.
The guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’
The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.'”
Although many of my friends hold to different world views and beliefs from me, we are still friends. My job is not to make them think the way I think or believe what I believe.
My job is to be their friend. That entails making myself available (even when it’s inconvenient), listening and speaking truth into their lives. Sometimes it entails me setting aside my desires and aspirations to ‘jump in the pit’ with them.
A strong friendship has transcendent value and that value increases over time. I believe God designed it this way to point us to the eternal. Life is relational. It seems to me that God and eternity are relational as well (the Bible points to this).
Whether you are ‘jumping into the pit’, enjoying a beautiful sunset or celebrating the birth of a child with a friend, all are noble endeavors and have transcendent value.
Be a pal!
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