Give friendship a chance

Have you ever had a close friend in your life? I’m not talking about just a casual acquaintance. I mean a friend who you spend time with on purpose. A friend whose house you visit just because. A friend who you’re perfectly fine with tossing in your car and driving hours beside. In comparison to the many many many people I know, I can count on two hands the friends who fit in this category. But I’m an introvert. Close friends are difficult for me to make because it takes me a long time to open up.

But if you’ve never had this kind of a friend, you’re missing out.

My brother and our guide Torleif walking along Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

My brother and our guide Torleif walking along Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

I’m sure I’ve blogged on these verses before, but when I think about the friendships in my life that have shaped me and helped me become the person I am today, this is the passage that comes to mind. Like I said yesterday, I enjoy my quiet time, but while being alone isn’t necessarily bad, being lonely is. And being lonely isn’t just depressing, it’s dangerous. You can get into trouble when you’re always alone, and then what happens? Sometimes you can fall into a pit so deep you can’t climb out on your own. That’s why you need friends.

I’ve been fortunate–blessed, really–to have many close friends over the years, friends who have loved me in spite of my flaws and quirks, of which there are many. And I’m doubly blessed to be able to say that in many instances the friends I had 10 and even 20 years ago are the same friends I have today. But on the other hand, some of my closest friends I’ve only known for half that time, if that.

Friendship can be tricky. It’s absolutely risky. Any time you open your heart to someone else, you’re taking a chance. Any time you are open and honest with another person, you’re risking that they will turn on you. And I’m not going to beat around the bush. That’s happened with me on a number of occasions, and in some specific circumstances, it was damaging–more damaging than I care to admit. I’m praying about how honest I should be about that time in my life on here. We’ll see. But without going into the gory details, I can tell you I came out of that time not wanting friends at all.

During that time in my life, I conveniently ignored this passage because I didn’t need friends. I didn’t need people. I was sufficient on my own, and having friends wasn’t worth the pain they would eventually cause. I lived that way for a number of years, holding people at arm’s length, refusing to allow anyone to get close, burying myself in details and busyness. Staying busy wasn’t a problem. It never was.

But a few people broke through my barriers and walls I’d put up, some forcefully, some naturally, and before I knew what was happening, I had friends again. Not just people I knew. Not just people I went to church with. Friends, who I loved and trusted and wanted to spend time with. Friends who I could be myself with, who loved me for me, who didn’t need me to perform, who thought I was pretty cool. And I hadn’t had that in so long, I’d forgotten what it felt like to be loved by choice.

Without the close friends in my life who have invested in me and believed in me and prayed for me and kept loving me in those times when I wasn’t such a good friend in return, I wouldn’t be where I am. I wouldn’t who I am. And I most certainly wouldn’t know God the way I do. Most of them actually read this blog, and if you guys are reading this morning, you know exactly who you are.

All this to say that if you’re in that place today, where people have hurt you, I know how that feels. And actually probably most everyone around you knows how you feel. One of Satan’s great lies is that nobody gets you. That nobody understands you. That no one around you could possibly identify with the struggles you’ve been through. And that’s a huge lie. You have more people around you who “get” you than you know, and you won’t know until you give them the chance.

It’s a risk, yes. People are people. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone screws up. And people will hurt you. Guess what? You will hurt others too. So extend the grace you hope to receive in those moments to others. And give friends a chance.

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