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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Good friend or acquaintance?

I don't know how easily you make friends, but it is not something which comes easy for a good many of us.  We find ourselves wanting those close friendships, but actually getting past the "surface" of acquaintance-type relationships is something which is much harder for some than others.  What some might call being "extroverted" makes it look as though those individuals who make friends easily are "really good" at making friends.  In other words, we associate the sheer number of friends they have with some kind of "successful" friendship-making ability on their parts.  I have met many an extroverted person, surrounded with a good many "friends" who have pretty close to no one to stand with them in the hard times!  The sheer volume doesn't guarantee anyone to come alongside in the moments of testing and trial - it just means we have a "gaggle" of guys or gals who all enjoy a good time with us!  

Good people are careful about choosing their friends, but evil people always choose the wrong ones. (Proverbs 12:36 ERV)

I may not be surrounded with a "gaggle" of "gal-friends", but one thing is for sure - the ones I have selected to get the closest to me over the years have meant the most to me in the times when I am struggling as well as when I am celebrating.  I am rather "careful" about choosing my friends.  In younger years, I was probably like the rest of the adolescents growing up - wanting to hang with the "popular" group.  If I couldn't hang with them, I wanted to be like them.  Sound familiar to anyone?  As my kids began to grow up, I saw exactly the same thing in their relationship choices - if they couldn't be part of the group, they yearned for it so badly it almost hurt.  Isn't it kind of eye-opening to be a parent and see the stuff we did as kids acted out in the lives of our kids? 

I can remember a few conversations with my daughter about some of the girls she wanted to hang out with.  They were all nice girls - none of them were going to lead her down the path into gangs or guns!  Yet, if you watched closely, you could see the "signs" these girls weren't going to be the kind of friends who could endure the "fire of the furnace" with her.  They were fine for the fun times, but come a little bit of a challenge in the relationship, and off they'd go! Then my daughter would be left devastated and feeling so rejected, used, and just didn't understand their "cruelty".  I know she wasn't alone in this reaction to their seemingly "two-sided" friendship.  Many will handle this by pulling in, telling themselves they won't put themselves "out there" again because they don't want to be hurt by people.  In doing this, they lose out on what God intended when he created us as "relational" individuals!

Instead of pulling in or away, we need to figure out how to make those choices in relationship which will prove to be lasting, meaningful, and a little challenging to our status quo.  Notice I didn't say they'd just "fluff our feathers" and make life all cheery for us.  If we are to be honest with each other here, the "best" relationships we have had over the years are not only the deepest ones, but those which have challenged us to become better individuals.  In order to do this, we didn't always see eye-to-eye and had to work out a few things.  We might have had to compromise on a matter here or there, but we never expected the other one to compromise their convictions or beliefs.  We were patient with each other as the other one "caught up" with us, or we gave them time to take a breather if things were going a little too fast for them.  We "read" each other like books and we learned to "fit' together rather than working to "write our own stories".

Every now and again, one of my daughter's friends from the past crosses her path.  It is always a moment of decision - for she can slip back into those moments of trying to be friends with them again in the way they want her to be a friend, or she can remain faithful to her choice to just accept they will never be the kind of close friend she had hoped for.  She is kind and loving toward them, but she also recognizes they just aren't the kind of friends who will be there through the trials, helping to strengthen her and sometimes being the voice who brings much needed wisdom, encouragement, and even correction. This is the "metal" of a true friend - one who will not only be there in the thick and thin of life, but who isn't afraid to be genuine in relationship.  Given all we know about relationship wherever we are at today, one thing will probably ring true in our hearts - we all want genuine people in our lives!  

We don't want phonies who are just "passing through" - we want those who will stand the tests of time, treasure, and testing!  To learn to be this kind of friend is actually kind of hard because we need to be willing to let another be at the center of the relationship!  It isn't the other guy or gal who is at the center - it is God. The best relationships are held together not because the two people are "good at relationship", but because they are willing to let God be at the center of it!  Just sayin!