Stronger Together!

friend1I fell asleep last night thanking God for all the people that are a part of my life. If a person’s wealth is measured by friends, I am a rich man. Since Bev’s death five months ago my greatest curse, aside from sorrow, is loneliness. In spite of being an introvert, I still find extended time alone in my house difficult. There the silence envelops me like a thick fog.  There is real joy found in interactions with friends who walk alongside of me, who share life in all its moments – tears, laughter, work, worship, and play. Did you know that Jesus needed friends? On the night before He was crucified, in His great sorrow, He drew His disciples close! “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-38, NIV)

There is a time for solitude, a value in being alone – just God, the Holy Spirit, and you in prayerful waiting.  Generally, though, we need community. God made us to be together:  to multiply our joy by sharing it, to halve our grief by allowing others to be part of it. David had his ‘mighty men’ who fought with him. Paul ministered first with Barnabas, then with Silas, and mentored young Timothy. Peter traveled with Mark.

Forming friendships is not easy. They are costly and to a degree, risky.  Friends require time, will pull us into their bad times as well as the good ones, and will sometimes fail in the critical hour! Still we need both to be a friend and to have friends. True friends keep us spiritually and emotionally healthy, make us much more effective in our work, and improve both the quality and average length of life!

So, how do we create and sustain friendships?

Learn how to love!
People are not just objects. Too often we see others of value only for the way they can help us get the job done, or make us feel better about ourselves, or because they are attractive. An old song reminds us “that loving things and using people only leads to misery. Using things and loving people, that’s the way it’s got to be.” (B.J. Thomas) Love transmits value to the other person. It feels great when someone notices you, not just for what you have done, but just because you are. Their attention says, “You matter,” and makes your feel more alive, doesn’t it?

Serve with others.
Strong friendship are complementary. No, I did not write ‘complimentary’ though that is not a bad thing. Giving a sincere compliment is a good thing.  We need to find ways to complete the people around us, by finding ways to combine our strengths, creating teams.  We do this when we find ways to serve and give ourselves even when it is inconvenient or sacrificial. Are you part of a team that serves?

Be vulnerable.
Do not confuse this with being ‘needy.’ A vulnerable person appropriately allows others to see the ‘true self,’ not just a carefully enhanced public image. If you are guarded, closed, and unwilling to admit that there are parts of your life where you are a work in progress, you will never build the kind of friendships that are best.  Being vulnerable requires wisdom. It is not always wise nor wanted to let others see inside our hearts!  On the whole, we are better friends when we live authentically and let others see us honestly. It is impossible to love a ‘Superman.’

Make Christ the center.
A Christian can and should have friendships with those who are not yet believing, but our closest confidantes must be drawn from the family of God. We ignore the wisdom of the Word to our peril. The Spirit says, “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15, NLT) Be it marriage, business partnership, or sharing life – having Christ as the third strand in every relationship makes those friendship much stronger, more productive, richer!

On this Monday morning, I encourage you to think deeply about the value of friendships, to creatively think of ways to build and sustain relationships that enrich your life. Don’t be a “Lone Ranger.” Here is a word from the Word. “In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. … I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.” (Ephesians 4:1-6, The Message)

_______________

Using things and loving people

That’s the way it’s got to be

Using things and loving people

Look around and you can see

That loving things and using people

Only leads to misery

Using things and loving people

That’s the way it’s got to be

 

Being loved is in the giving

All we have is what we share

Loving life is for the living

You have to have a heart to care

And loving things and using people

Only leads to misery

Using things and loving people

That’s the way it’s got to be

 

So put your hand inside my hand

I don’t know where the road will lead

We may not find the things we want

But we will find the things we need

And all we need is love

 

Using things and loving people

Brings you happiness I’ve found

Using things and loving people

Not the other way around

‘Cause loving things and using people

Only leads to misery

Using things and loving people

That’s the way it’s got to be

 

For you and me

For you and me

 

B.J. Thomas

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