9 Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.
17 You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.
(Proverbs 27:9, 17)
I like to go to the Proverbs once in a while to get some insight into life's lessons that the man who was known as the "wisest man in the world" learned in his lifetime. There is much recorded within the Proverbs related to the type of friends we pick, what it is like to make unwise choices in friends, and what the value of a good friend is. Today, I'd like to consider the latter - a good friend and their worth.
Lotions and fragrances are merely outward adornments. They are applied to the surface of our bodies - yet they have a tremendous ability to provide "sensual" delight. In other words, they create enjoyment just in their application - both to the one wearing the fragrance or enjoying the lotion's application, and to the one who has the joy of experiencing the outcome of their application by the other person.
There are times within friendship that are like applications of lotion - they help to smooth the surface and provide an encounter that is both enjoyable and memorable. A good friend knows when a hug is needed, or when a touch will produce a sense of peace or security. A good friend is aware of the impact of life's constant barrage of pressures and will respond by giving words of encouragement that are like lotion applied to the dry surface of the skin - they bring refreshing and soothe the dryness of your soul.
There are also times within friendship that are like the anointing of a fragrant perfume - the "fragrance" of what is produced when the two friends are together is an enjoyable experience. Fragrances do a lot to stimulate our desire - we desire to partake of food because it "smells good"; we desire to use a certain laundry soap because it leaves our clothes "smelling fresh". So it is in relationship with one another - a good friend will have the impact of affecting our desires in a positive and uplifting manner.
The second verse almost seems opposite the first - with the first reflecting the "softer" side of relationship, the second reflecting the "harder" side of that same relationship. It is important to remember that relationship has both sides. A good friend actually stimulates growth in our life - they bring out both the best, and sometimes even the worst in us. In doing so, they are like iron sharpening iron. A blade of a knife is only as useful as the "edge" it has - you cannot use a butter knife to carve a prime rib! We need each other to show us where we have become "dull" and "ineffective" in our walk. In so doing, we are "honing" each other so that we possess the "edge" we will need to be of use exactly the way we were designed to be.
We often want to find a friend that has the characteristics of the first verse we considered today - then run from the one that is like iron sharpening our "dull" edges. Being sharpened is equally important - yet it is often doubly painful! We must be willing to endure a little pain in relationship in order to realize the "edge" it will produce. Sweetness, refreshment, and enjoyment are good in their season - but we also need the hard times to bring us to the place of being strong, sharp, and perfectly "honed".