If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (Philippians 2:1-2)
I revisit this passage frequently because it speaks deeply to me about the kind of friend I want to be to those God has placed in my life and the kind of friends I want to surround my life with, as well. Being in 'community' is important - but the right community is more important. If you have ever been in a relationship that is a bit of a 'drain' on you emotionally, physically, or spiritually - you know that you sometimes wish you could just escape it! Why? It all has to do with the 'drain' - think about what a drain's purpose is - it carries away what is no longer deemed to be necessary, has become dirty, contains waste, and needs emptying. If others are using you as this kind of 'conduit' for their life's miseries, you might just feel a little less than 'refreshed' whenever you are around them!
It is not always the easiest to put ourselves aside and then to step in to help another out, but it is very rewarding. To be entirely truthful here, we all want friends like this, don't we? We want the rewards of friendship, but do we put ourselves into the relationship as much as we expect the other person to put themselves into it? That is a telling question about our relationship 'wisdom' - we sometimes call these 'high maintenance' relationships. The kind of relationships that are pretty much 'one-sided' - it is all about one person in the relationship and the other one is just there to be the 'drain'. While we all need those who will come alongside and help us sort out things from time to time, listening to us intently, and then giving us sage advice, they also need that from us.
Over and above all this is the idea of 'forgetting ourselves' long enough for another to come to the forefront. Imagine how it would be if we are both involved in the relationship with this attitude! It would mean you give a little, receive a little - each of you building the other up, encouraging one another, and leaving each other's 'love tank' just a little fuller because you did! I am privileged to have a BFF that does this for me every time we are together - not just occasionally, but each and every time. Whether it is a vacation together, or we are just sewing in the 'sweat shop', I find my tank filled. If you don't have a similar friend in your life today, perhaps your journey begins by asking yourself what kind of friend you have become to others. Mom always used to tell me to be the kind of friend I wanted. Sage advice and scriptural, too! Just sayin!