Tues., Nov. 6, 2018
Proverbs 27:9 – The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still.
I am fortunate to have many meaningful friendships in my life. Some of my very first friends were ones started at the church were my family attended. As little girls, we attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School together. Some of these friendships continue yet today.
From my elementary and high school days, I also have friends with whom I keep in touch. Growing up in a small community, those same church friends were also my school friends. I also developed friendships within the youth organizations that I participated in, like 4-H, Junior Holsteins and FFA. These groups allowed me to meet people outside of the small community and school where I attended. Through these groups, I traveled to places I would not have otherwise experienced as a teenager.
I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The first lecture I attended had as many students in it as my entire high school. While the whole experience could have been very overwhelming, it wasn’t. Why? I found a great group of friends very early in my college career. We remained dear friends throughout and after college. We lived together, played together, studied together and dated together. We learned how to become adults together. I could call any of these ladies and they would be available to me in an instant, as I hope I would be in reverse.
Through various work positions, I have made friends. Dear ones, in fact. When I attended seminary and began working in ministry, another layer of friendships were created. There were certain fellow students which I simply felt more at ease with. One of these friends performed my marriage.
At each church where I have served as a pastor, friendships have developed. Things became complicated when Hubby Rick and I began to date. He was a member of one of the church’s I was serving; in fact, he was the council chair. We were instructed to only date if we anticipated getting married. After 18+ years of marriage, I think the friendship worked out.
When a United Methodist pastor leaves a congregation, we are to drop all association with those affiliated with the congregation. This is hard. For example, dropping my relationship within a congregation would have meant me not having a relationship with my in-laws. This was not realistic. Being friends with someone does not mean I am also their pastor.
Last December, I voluntarily stepped away from full-time ministry to explore other opportunities. On Sunday mornings, Hubby Rick and I have been bouncing from church to church. We miss the feeling of being with the same church family every week. We miss out on happenings in these family’s lives.
When I was in seminary, a professor asked each student to share a word they felt best describes our relationship with God. A variety of words were offered: parental, love, grace, etc.
If I were to answer this today, what word would I use?
Friendship. I see friendship written all over the relationships between the three persons within the Trinity. Friendship exists between humans and God. We see friendship between the participants within the faith community. Jesus, himself, gave a wonderful example of how we are to treat other others as friends, when he said, “Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has this no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Wow. What a definition of friendship.
Here’s the deal. Contrary to popular belief, friendship is not something we build. It’s something we seek, built and pray for. When we make ourselves available as a friend to someone, we pray they are willing to reciprocate friendship as well.
When we see each other as friends, we should determine to be a little easier on each other. Choose to be a little more understanding and not expect something in return. A true friend is able to see the good in someone even when they have made a complete mess of things. This friend simply shows up at the right moment with no expectations. These friends start right back where the last conversation ended with little or no effort, where it’s been one, two, five or a lot more years since they last saw each other.
Our world, collectively and individually, needs a lot more friendship these days. People who simply show up and make their hands and feet available to someone who needs help with no anticipation of a reciprocation of help. We all need a place where we feel loved, cared up and safe: a small group that welcomes us with open arms.
For deep friendships in our lives, I am thankful.
Lord God – You give us such a wonderful example of friendship right within the Trinity. May we seek, desire and create meaningful relationships in our lives. Amen.
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