Firstly, Happy 2014! Whatever has happened in the last year, I hope you look forward to this one with hope and excitement.
In this blog post I shall try to explore the reasons behind our friendships and what we look for (or hope to) in a friend. It is possible to sometimes be surrounded by a mass of people, even people you know, but have no one you really connect with. Maybe you feel misunderstood or people are not aware of where you are coming from. Is this a way we can distinguish friendship from acquaintance? Maybe.
I have grown to believe we have and need friends for a number of different reasons. These are a few.
To share in the joys of life- to celebrate with each other in the triumphs and be an encouragement.
I shared last night (New Year's Eve) with some old friends and even though I don't fully understand why the New Year is such a big deal, I don't mind meeting up with my friends and celebrating :)
Friends are also there to reproof us and tell us when we are being a bit of an idiot. They can offer a brilliant (and often dearly needed) change of perspective in situations where we are blinded by our own pride or have a distorted view on what can be achieved and what should be left alone.
In Proverbs 27, we read in verse 6, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."
Would you rather have someone who would play on your pride or vanity, maybe for their own gain or an honest friend whose words opens your eyes? A faithful friend like this would indeed be worth keeping, but their counsel should not fall on closed ears or hearts. We as friends should not only give wise reproof, but also be able to receive and act upon it.
"Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear." - Proverbs 25:12
is a wise reprover to a listening ear." - Proverbs 25:12
There are times in our lives where the inevitable storm will come- maybe unexpectedly, maybe you saw it coming. Firstly, God is faithful and sovereign and however dark the storm might look, it has an end. He has also given us friends to weather our storms with us! This can be a real test of friendship as it may means the personal cost of their time, energy, money, etc.
"And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men." - 1 Thessalonians 5:14
A character who I associate quite often with loyalty is Sam Gamgee, a hobbit in Tolkien's 'Middle Earth'. Although Sam appears at first to be no more than a friendly gardener and a good cook, we see through the story how incredibly brave and intensely loyal he is to helping Frodo complete his mission. On his adventures he fights Nazguls, goblins, orcs, giant spiders and is often rejected by Frodo and told to go home (unkind and impractical). Sam also observes how Frodo is being changed by the power of the ring and the influence of Gollum so that he no longer trusts Sam as a friend. In the end, it is Sam who ultimately saves Frodo from falling to his death at Mount Doom.
So yes, Sam's awesome. We love Sam.
Jumping from the world of Tolkien to the New Testament, just before we see the events leading up to Jesus' death on the cross: in Matthew 26:33, Peter tells Jesus that he will remain loyal to him, but Jesus knew then and we know now that Peter would go on to deny that he even knew Jesus (verse 34). Sometimes we read this and think, 'Peter, how could you do this? It's Jesus! It's the King! You've spent years with him. Don't you trust him?' And maybe we want to think that if we were in that situation they we would not have been as disloyal as Peter?
Although in the UK, we aren't surrounded by the threat of punishment or death for professing to follow Jesus or live out his ways, there are ways in which we show ourselves to be inconstant to him.
If we are honest, our hearts are not always 100% seeking Him- we put other things in top priority. But he always brings us back to himself. Even if we are not focused on seeking Him, it is amazing to know that our maker, our savior, our friend is pursuing us 24/7. He is loyal.
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28:20
Okay, so I have talked a lot on what we look for in our friendships and there is much in the Bible to encourage wisdom when choosing your friends. However, from a certain perspective this can be somewhat selfish if we are friends with someone only to gain from their wisdom or take advantage of their loyalty. Hopefully I have been clear on this post that it matters just as much how you treat your friends as how they treat you. It's a two way street. And even if you find that maybe your friendship group are not as wise or loyal as you would like, does this mean you should dump them and go and find some white haired saints? Hmm. Would that be displaying any kind of loyalty from your part? And what is that saying about your heart and your motivation for the friendship? Is it only about what you want to get out it? Food for thought I think.
So, I have spoken generally about friendships on this post, but not specifically about men and women. The reason for this? I would say that a lot of these issues apply to all types of friendships. A distinction I would make is that in friendships between guys and gals, they may be displayed differently. For example, if you are a woman, although you might want to be as honest as can with your guy friends, there are some things which just aren't appropriate to share with them.
There is an element about knowing how men and women tick- but also how each individual shows and receives loyalty, love and counsel. Some people are very direct, others are more subtle. Some people love going on adventures, others know that they just need to listen sometimes.
Maybe this is another reason why we need to strengthen our friendships- or just to observe them more closely, so that we can really understand each other better.