Friday, February 02, 2007


“Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves;
6 for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;
7 and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’
8 “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”
(Luke 11:5-8)

Friendships are defined in a measurement of relationships. Our three year old granddaughters have already begun identifying some friends with the phrase “My best friend.” We have friends, good friends, and best fiends. When a friend disappoints us he/she is a “so called friend.” Friends who don’t help in the time of need are called “fair weather friends.”

Friendships are built or developed over time. For there to be a very close friendship there must be trust and, over time, trust is developed. Time spent observing, sharing, and uncovering layers of self-protection is essential to developing really close friendships.

A big struggle we all have is fear that after investing time and energy into building friendships we discover that the relationship is less than what we thought. Something bad happens and you call upon your friends for help. If they are truly friends they will help--no matter what. The implication of Jesus is, if one is a true friend it wouldn’t take a persistent pestering to get help. Also implied, the assumption of a friendship assumes the freedom for one to be a persistent pest, if the need is great enough. Yet, even if the need is significant, very few people like the feeling of being a pest (begging). Maybe this is a reason we don’t ask for help when we really need it. Asking could turn into a persistent pestering which would identify the shallowness of our relationship. We would rather live in a fairy-tale, make-believe world where all our friends are great friends and would do anything to help us and us them.

The problem with make-believe is real life can’t be lived there. Learning to live life to its fullest only comes with facing reality and choosing to live in reality. In this case, reality is: not all whom you call friends are truly friends. The scary part and sometimes hurtful part is discovering who is and who isn’t. The depth of friendship is determined by a mutual consideration. You may consider yourself a good friend and that if a particular person called with a need you would do everything within your power to help. Time. Money. Support. Encouragement. Whatever within your power, whether convenient or not. But if the other person is not mutual or reciprocal in that consideration you do not have that close of a relationship. This remark is not to place blame but to move into reality. No matter how painful this discovery may be it is worth it to live in reality.

You see, if there is trust between you and them, they would know you wouldn’t ask them to do anything that you wouldn’t do if the tables were turned. Or you would not ask them to do anything that would compromise them. Nor would you depend on them for help if it were not a real need.

Maybe part of the struggle is internal as you ask yourself “how good a friend am I?” If someone I call friend truly had a need would I help them. We say things like “whatever I have is yours” or “if there is anyway I can help let me know.” Yet, when it comes down to it, are we truly friends? Am I the type of person whose talk is cheap? Am I, in reality, a fair-weather friend? Are my friendships relationships of convenience? If I am to learn to live life then I must, in reality, answer these questions about myself as well as those I call friends.

Like an archeologist going through the difficult and dirty work of digging to find the valuable artifact-- discovering your friendship quotient and those who are true friends is difficult and dirty work. Going through the hard work of digging through relationships to discover the true friends is the only way to find the real thing. The value of the artifact to the archeologist determines the degree of willingness and work that he/she is prepared to go through to discover it. Yet, just as a skilled archeologist uses great care and sensitivity, this relational digging must be done with a soft, delicate, and graceful touch. The potential artifact in every relationship is discovering true friendship. A friendship that is mutual in giving and growing.

'Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.' –Aristotle

Aristotle’s words have proven to be true in my life. Misfortune happens and we have to call upon our friends for help. Then we are surprised by the reality of who proves to be a true friend and who proves to be a fair-weather friend. Close friends jump at the request to help, even if it is inconvenient. Those who through pestering finally fulfill the request may still be friends but they have identified themselves, in degree, by their willingness and speed of response. Fair-weather friends don’t even help after persistent pestering. Through the misfortune and the discovery process, I’ve had to face reality not only about myself but about others, too.

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

To lay down my life for a friend means a lot more than being willing to take a bullet for someone. Most of the time, it is just the willingness to, consistently, be. Be there. Be vulnerable. Be respectful. Be available. Be willing. Be all that you can be. In Christ, the good news is, I can choose what kind of friend I will be.

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