January 15, 2010

Be a Friend to Have a Friend
by Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com Senior Editor

A friend loves at all times.

Proverbs 17:17

Christmas is now four weeks past us, but the remnants remain on a bulletin board in my office.

There, I have thumb-tacked various holiday family pictures and newsletters that I received in the mail from all different sorts of friends and acquaintances.  I decided that that's how I would actively "handle" these materials this year, instead of putting them in a pile to collect dust and go unused and forgotten.

As I look at the bulletin board each day, my heart is warmed as I see the faces of friends who have played different roles in my life:  comforter, truth-teller, listener, hugger, encourager, constructive criticizer, food 'n' fellowship provider, relationship decoder/investigator, and so forth.

So many ways of serving and giving from so many different types of friends!  I am blessed as I am reminded of what they have done for me.  And then I am also convicted:  What am I doing for my friends?  How am I pouring into their lives as they have—and still are—pouring into mine?  How is God moving me to be part of their worlds? 

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said:  "The only way to have a friend is to be one."  And he was so right about that.  Friendships don't just happen.  They take time.  They take effort.  They take upkeep.  And that means we all have to do something if we want to cultivate, grow and nurture relationships with others.

When I look at my bulletin board of friends, if I am truly willing to be a friend "who loves at all times," I know that that means I have to always be ready to shelve my plans in order to help meet the varied needs of others. 

It's something God has been working on me for a while now.  Am I willing to lay down my agenda and sacrifice my time and my desires for my friends?  Or is it more important that I get done today what is on my list and what I think is right for me?  Am I seeking the Lord for his direction?  Am I paying attention to the Holy Spirit for conviction?

Let me warn you, though.  Don't ask God to move in your life in this way unless you really mean it.  Because when you do ask him to help you be a better friend and to help you reach out to others, he will open your eyes (and heart) to plenty of opportunities that you may or may not like or may or may not be what you had in mind.

You might be asked to …

  • Offer your professional skills to someone else in need for free (lawyers helping someone navigate a legal matter, hair stylists cutting and styling where needed, teachers offering tutoring to struggling students, etc.).
  • Forgo your after-work errands or "must do!" agenda to just sit, listen (for as long as it takes) and offer a warm hug to someone's who's trying to be "strong" in a traumatic situation and just needs to let it all out.
  • Give up your entire Saturday to get down and dirty and make a difference while helping someone to move, paint a house, organize some closets or run a giant garage sale.

Better yet, you might be moved to …

  • Give financially to someone you don't even know to help them raise support to adopt a child.
  • Befriend the "different" or "difficult" person whom no one else likes and get past the oddities or prickly barrier to reach the heart and connect with who this person really is.
  • Not take careless words or confusing situations/messages personally and instead choose to "cover" these minor offenses with love when you think someone has stepped on your toes or wounded your pride. 

That's what a true friend does.  Gets outside of themselves.  And gives.  And gives.  And gives!  Are you up to it?  I'm asking myself the same question.  For friends both new and old, how can we be true friends to someone else today?

Intersecting Faith & Life:  No doubt, at some point in your life you've known what it's like to be on the receiving end of someone who has been a good friend to you.  But what's it like to be your friend?  Do you take more than you give?  Are you ever around during the hard times?  Do you take time to listen and care about others' concerns and life matters?  Take a friend inventory today and see what changes you might need to make in your outreach to those you call "friend."

Further Reading:

John 15:13
1 Corinthians 13:4