Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Why do we have friends?

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

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
This leads me quite nicely to loyalty.
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.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Just friends.

It is nearly Christmas: the tree is trimmed, the nights are drawing in and I have decided to start writing a blog about friendship between men and women. There are plenty of things I could be doing now, but I am going to attempt to write this blog because I think there is an important issue which is often brushed aside or overlooked. Searching for serious reading/teaching on friendship has been hard and apart from the Bible (of course), the fruits of my search have been disappointing.

At this point please feel free to email me with a extensive list of resources I have failed or been too impatient to find. There may be some brilliant teaching on friendship between young men and women out there and I would be more than willing to point people towards it.

Although I will be writing from a women's point of view during the blog, I will make some effort to include perspectives from men about certain issues and hopefully this will also be a helpful blog for guys as well as us ladies :)

From where I stand, it seems a lot of focus on the topic of relationships for women is on our relationship status (dating, marriage, engagement, etc.) and yes, there is good reason for that: Men are different from us; we don't always (hardly often) understand them; we think and interpret things in different ways.

And these are all good things (imagine if men and women were the same....) and also good reasons why we should look at our friendships with men.

Regardless of what marital status you are currently in, the majority of your relationships with men are going to be platonic friendships and although getting your relationship with your boyfriend/fiancée/husband right is really important (It really is and the Bible is your first port of call for looking at that, as well as lots of great books written by godly men and women), I don't think enough thought is given to the importance of friendships and how to handle them in whatever season of life you find yourselves in.

So I think my point is: healthy friendships with men are important, especially if you are single for a large portion of your life.
I'm talking about faith-lifting, truth speaking, Jesus-glorifying friendships.

This blog is going to be a mountain hike.

I don't know the route very well.
I will need to ask for directions on the way.
I will definitely make mistakes.
But I have the ultimate friend by my side and He is utterly faithful.

Will you strap on your boots, grab a flask of hot tea and join me?

"Some friendships do not last, but some friends are more loyal than brothers."
- Proverbs 18:24