Hippos working on their tans - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Walking on porcupines

Have you ever tried to get a picture of a porcupine? Well, if you do, good for you. I’ve never seen a real one. So I have no photographs of porcupines, but I do have hippos. And that will work for today, because I’m not talking about real porcupines anyway. I’m actually talking about friendship.

I don’t think I post enough about friendships. I don’t even know where to start most of the time because I am so overwhelmed and so thankful to be friends with such amazing people.

Our friends determine so much in our lives. And if you have awesome friends — and I mean truly awesome friends and not just popular ones — you should count yourself fortunate.

Hippos working on their tans - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Hippos working on their tans – Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 18:24.

There are “friends” who destroy each other,
but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Who are your friends? Do your friends ask more from you than they expect of themselves? Do your friends treat you the way you treat them? Do your friends love God? Do your friends speak truth? Do your friends give you sound advice based in Scripture and tempered with the love of God?

If you have friends like that, you are richer than the richest man in the universe. Because there are “friends” out there who will hang out with you just because they want something from you. There are “friends” out there who need a prop. And even though they may be your “friends” when they feel like it, the day will eventually come when they won’t have time for you. And they’ll drop you like a rock.

I always told myself that I didn’t really need friends, that I could get along just fine without them. And, if we’re being honest here, that’s probably true. But how lonely would life be? How empty would life be? And, truthfully, how much more difficult would life be? If I didn’t have my friends to rely on and blow up on and cry on, life would be much harder than it is now.

Today’s verse just made me think about friendship and what it really is. Because true friendship goes beyond blood. It stretches deeper than DNA and further than a family name. Because we don’t get to choose our families; we choose our friends. And, what’s more important, our friends choose us. And what’s more, true friends keep choosing us even when we have a bad day, even when we’re struggling at work or at home, even when we snap, even when we don’t feel good.

Can you imagine what it would be like to walk through a field of porcupines? Just think about that. It wouldn’t be pleasant at all. They’re volatile and unpredictable, and they’re covered in needles. All it would take is one wrong move, and they’ll let loose a volley of needles that will leave you wincing.

But no one walks on porcupines. I’m sure there’s some kind of fee or fine you have to pay for that. But even though we don’t actually walk on porcupines, we do have to walk through life. And life can have its needles and touchy spots. And so many times through Scripture, God talks about friends and walking. It’s not unusual to see the concept of friendship lined right up with the concept of walking through life.

Why? Well, think about it. What else do friends do but walk with you, even through the most difficult times in your life? That’s what friends are for.

I got to thinking about this verse because of a birthday present one of my friends gave me. Silly socks covered in porcupines! They’re adorable! And they’re bright, and they’re fun! I love them! (So far, I have encountered two things that turn me girly: Bath & Body Works hand soaps and funny, silly socks.)

But beyond the fun of the socks, they just made me think about friendship. Because friendships aren’t forged in the good times. Maybe they start in good times. Maybe they start over a fun conversation or a good cup of coffee. But they don’t get very deep there. To grow a deep friendship, you have to walk through some porcupines, and you have to do it together. And somewhere between needles, you’ll make a choice to either keep walking or turn back.

Don’t get me wrong. You need to determine if the friendship is one that’s worth pursuing. Sometimes turning back is the best decision you can make. But if you turn back on every friendship the moment the going gets tough, you’ll never understand what it really means to have a real friend.

I guess, what I’m saying this morning, is that the closest friendships in my life have come through some amount of difficulty — whether it was through a difficult situation we tackled together or through a difficult conversation we had to have to straighten things out between us. The best friendships you have aren’t just going to happen. Like any relationship, you have to work at them.

So if you have a friend (or friends) in your life who you have walked on porcupines with, be thankful for them. And tell them that you’re thankful for them. You never know when you might not have the opportunity to thank them anymore.

And if you’ve never walked through porcupines, you will. So it might not be a bad idea to find someone who won’t mind walking with you. Just remember that true friendship is a two-way street. And if you’re walking through a field of porcupines with a friend, you’ll both take hits, but you’ll both be there to keep each other going.

Sunrise on the beach - Galveston, TX

Friendships really can last a lifetime.

Friendship is one of the necessities of life. I am a fairly independent, solitary person. Even my career of choice is somewhat solitary because when you get right down to it, writing is something you have to do alone. Even if you interview someone and get information from them, it’s still up to you to write it down and usually you’ll do that by yourself.

But as important as friendship is, wouldn’t you think that all friendships would last forever? That’s not the case, though. Some friendships last through high school. Some last through college. Others may only last the week of a church camp.

But then … you have the friendships that last a lifetime. There are a couple of examples of those kinds of friendship in Scripture, but the one that always comes to mind when I think of real friendship is David and Jonathan.

Sunrise on the beach - Galveston, TX

Sunrise on the beach – Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 20:42.

At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.

If you want to do a study on friendship, David and Jonathan are the best example you can find in the Bible. One of the best passages you can look at is 1 Samuel 20:1-42. David, God’s chosen to be the next king of Israel. Jonathan, the crown prince of Israel, the son of the king. By all rights, they should have been enemies, but instead they were friends.

God brought them alongside each other to help each other and encourage each other at the darkest moments of their lives. So what made their friendship so special?

What is it that sets some friendships apart? Why do some friendships last longer than others?

This is just my opinion, but I think spontaneous friendships that only last a week or two and the friendships that last forever are separated by a single factor: the focus of the friendship. If you make friends with someone and you are only interested in what they can do for you, that’s a friendship that won’t last very long. But if you have a friendship where you intend to serve your friend, to encourage them, to help them, to support them even at personal cost to yourself, that’s a friendship that will last a lifetime.

If you look at your friendship as a divine appointment that God has arranged and treat your friend as though he or she is someone who God has put in your life, think about how that will change your relationship.

Of course, no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. But when your friend screws up, when your friend makes a mistake, when your friend hurts your feelings, when they disappoint you, how do you react? Do you hold it over their head? Do you feel satisfied and point out their flaws? Do you compare your own failings to theirs?

That’s not friendship. That’s selfish.

There were many things that Jonathan could have held over David’s head. There were many things David could have held against Jonathan. But they didn’t. They loved each other, and they wanted to help each other.

And that’s the way our friendships need to be.

Granted, there are some situations where a friendship needs to end. But I really feel that more often than not friendships that could have lasted a lifetime come to an end prematurely because people get their perspectives turned around. (And I’m not talking about dating or relationships of that nature; that’s similar but more complicated.)

So if you’re friends with someone and you’re wondering why they aren’t interested in giving you the attention you think you deserve, the first thing you need to do is to ask yourself how much of a friend you’ve been to them.

And if you have a friend who serves you, who sacrifices for you, who loves you unconditionally and accepts you the way you are (but always encourages you to improve yourself) … you are fortunate. No, you’re more than fortunate; you’re blessed. And you need to make sure you never take that friend for granted.