Got Friends? Dare 6 of the new dare journey…
Dare 6 – Got Friends?
You could take one look at me as an 11 year-old and feel my pain. I often stood at the fence outside the school, dreading another day of torturous interaction with my classmates. My gangly arms and legs and too big tortoise-shell glasses framed my small genderless face, and I stood outside the fence as long as I could before the last bell rang. Quickly, I’d rush to my locker, eyes glued to the grey/brown floor tiles until I could stuff my coat into the small rectangular box.
Growing up in the Northwest, stuffing a coat in a locker shouldn’t be a big deal, right? You haven’t seen my coat. These were the days before ultra-light down, back in the dark ages when down jackets kept you warm because they were essentially sleeping bags with arms and a place for your legs to stick out.
On winter days when the hairs inside your nose froze and the tears turned to ice before they slid down your face – the super puffy jacket was a necessity.
It was also one more thing for me to be made fun of about.
You ever know that kid who just seemed to attract the wrong kind of attention? That was me. I didn’t know how to interact with the other kids my age, maybe because I spent so much time interacting with adults. The “why” of the abuse however, doesn’t matter. The “what” was awful. Socially awkward or not, some of what I endured from 4th through 8th grade was nearly unbearable.
I became an atheist during those years.
From the time I was eight years old until I was twelve, I prayed off and on to God to save me from the bullying. When a group of boys trapped me in a corner of a yard and their hands were going places they shouldn’t – the man came out of his house and chased them off.
Embarrassed, I ran.
I never told anyone what happened.
And that night, I decided God didn’t exist and I told Him so.
What kind of God lets a kid get picked on like that? What kind of God doesn’t put an end to it? I didn’t know what I didn’t know at that time – we’ll talk about why God allows pain next week.
While my thin skin didn’t seem to get thicker as a result of the daily torture of school, it did help me relate to my own kids in a different way.
And I understand when a friend lets them down.
Or when a friend is mean.
And they know how to speak truth into situations – and while the jury is still out (all are teenagers at the time of this writing) they all have friends which are salt and light to them, iron-sharpening-iron style.
I did still somehow manage to escape high school without joining a clique of delinquents, doing drugs, alcohol, or being promiscuous. I also survived by staying mostly under the radar of the bullies. I even had a few people I considered friends.
I even had a “best” friend. Her name was Wendy. She was awesome. Legit-style.
What I’ve learned since becoming a follower of Christ, however, has changed everything in the friend department.
The friends I have now are amazing. When I sit and think of the work the Lord has done in my life, He somehow managed to turn atheist-timid-awkward girl into strong-God&self-assured,-thankful girl. With friends.
I long for you to have the kind of friendships that I have… the ones where when (not if, but WHEN) we hurt each other, we apologize. There’s repentance. There’s behavior change, and grief on both sides. Conflict resolved well creates intimacy – so yeah, we have conflict. And it is awesome when we work through it. We don’t avoid it.
But here’s the thing…
Having friends requires BEING a friend…
And that’s super-hard to do when your fear is bigger than your faith. Or when your sin gets in the way – like gossip or envy.
So as we get to know Christ and start to emulate His character, we also start drawing in others – they see Him in us and naturally respond to the attraction. I have what I consider the “2am Girls” – those friends that you could call at 2am if the world was falling apart and you needed someone. The relationships are as deep as they come; things I treasure immensely. We’ve hurt each other, apologized, repented, healed, forgiven, and brought out the best in each other.
I feel rich as a result.
The other night I had a discussion with one of the young women who comes to my house – she’s the friend of one my kids. We talked about how Christ had “the three” – Peter, James, and John. He took them everywhere. He expected them to lead, hoped they would pass on what He was doing after He left. I think these friends of Christ are like my 2am Girls. It’s taken me a while to end up with three of them, but I have, and I love them all to pieces. Sometimes, honestly, the number moves from 2-5 depending on what I’m doing, what stage my kids are in, and how much I’m working.
You need quality time in all relationships – and that only comes from quantity time – no matter what the media tells you.
Then Christ had the 12. Those were the second-tier folks – people you love to pieces, maybe even wish you had more time to be deeper friends with, and yet you just can’t. They are treasures, too, by the way.
Given that the Bible has a lot to say about friendships, I thought we should take a brief look at that:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
Proverbs 27:9 ESV
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
Proverbs 27:6 ESV
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Job 6:14 ESV
He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
1 Peter 4:8-10 ESV
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
Proverbs 22:24-27 ESV
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?
Romans 1:12 ESV
That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
For me, the bottom line is simply this:
Friendship is like an ice cream sundae that requires big scoops of grace and encouragement; large dollops of truth-speaking in love, whipped-style topped with trust and transparency, and heavily sprinkled with forgiveness and humility.
My friends speak truth in my life, and I do the same in theirs. When I can’t think or am only capable of is tears – they listen. There’s no judgment, no criticism, just encouragement and compassion.
And then they do the most important thing: point me back to Him.
I’ve chosen well. My friends don’t try to solve my problems – they know Him well enough to know they are fellow travelers on this journey, not path directors.
What About You?
As you think through the passages above and the friends in your life, respond to the following questions:
- What kind of friend is Jesus to you “for reals-style?” Write down how you REALLY experience His friendship.
- What kind of friend is Christ supposed to be to you? Google “friend Jesus” and read the verses. Then make a list of His characteristics – Google “character traits of Christ” and write down what you see described there.
- What are the differences between how Christ really IS your friend now, and how He actually could be?
- What kind of friend are YOU? Take an honest look at how you treat your friends. Do you gossip with them, thereby encouraging them to sin? Do you lead them into doing the right things, or do you lead them away from God? Are you loyal, honest, trustworthy, reliable, etc.?
- Take inventory of your current friends. Which, if any (these take a long while to find) are the 2am Girls? Which, if any, shouldn’t be on the list?
- Do these friends encourage you to do the next right thing, or do they drag you into sin?
- Describe yourself as the friend you want to be. Write down all the things you feel you are doing well, and the things you sense God wants to change in your life to make you a better vessel for His great love to others.
- Describe the “perfect friend.” What would she do or not do? How would you spend your time together?
- Take a moment and review how much time you spend with Jesus, either by reading the Bible, worshiping, attending church services, and especially being alone with Him and praying – and most importantly, listening. If you feel like you don’t have Him as your most intimate friend, you need to spend more time with Him. How will you do that?
Pray with me?
Lord, You made Yourself in community, in deep relationship with others. The Holy Trinity is a marvelous look at how we can be so united we feel as though we are one. We long for that closeness with You. Lord, we also need You with skin on – guide us in our friendships, oh Lord. Help us find friends that we can deeply connect with.
Help me, oh Lord, help me be a good friend to others, even when it is hard, even when it hurts. Help me continue taking risks with transparency while learning the fine line between that and over-sharing. God, please help me represent You well in my relationships.
And when I feel alone, please, Father, help me remember that Jesus is my Best Friend. Always. Forever-style. Help me reach out to Him in prayer, seeking His advice when I have no counsel with skin on, seeking His arms when I ache for a hug. Help me discover a deeper friendship with You, oh God, through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help me see You in Your Word, such that I revel in the intimacy we can have. Help me see this relationship deepen. Please grow my relationship with You, oh God.
Thank You for Jesus. It’s in His name I pray.
Amen and amen.
Explore the “gaps” between where your friendships (between you and Christ, and you and others) could be and where they actually ARE.
In prayer, ask God what is keeping you from deepening these relationships and what you should do about them.
If He tells you to do so, “go on the record” with God and your friends to let them know where you’ve been wrong, how you are sorry, and how you want to do better. If you’ve hurt them, listen and deeply explore that hurt without justifying or defending yourself – listen with compassion to their perceptions and hurts. Remember that just because someone feels a certain way or think something is true doesn’t mean it is your fault. Friends respect each other’s feelings, however. Own what is yours to own, apologize and commit to doing better with God and your friends.
Share this commitment with God, your friends, and someone else who can hold you accountable to this.
Thank God for the opportunity for second chances!
Chime in on the comments section below with your initial response, and then after you do the exercises, come back and let’s keep talking.
Love to you,
Oh, and if you got this as an email forward from a friend who cares about you and your family, know we’d love YOU to join us on this journey.
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If you are just joining us, these might be of interest, too:
Dare 5: Are you destroying yourself?
Dare 4: Where to Start When You are Wounded
Dare 3: Who do you think you are?
I’ll post part of it as this will take awhile. How have I experienced Jesus as a friend… I guess I’ve always thought of him as too holy to be a true friend. He does love me and he has the best in mind for me, but much like that song I cannot sing ( I am a friend of God) calling him a friend feels too sacrilegious if that makes sense.
That said, Jesus did call his disciples friends in John 15 says in that same chapter that he counts us his friends if we obey what he says. Jesus died for me which as he even says most people wouldn’t die for a good man much less sinners like me and that is the proof of love of a friend that they would lay down their lives for you. Jesus is/was perfect. He loves perfectly.
I have probably 100 acquaintances and people that might say I’m a friend, but I maybe have 1 true friend. There is no one that I share deeply with. To be honest, in today’s society I’m not sure how you do that. Everyone is too busy taking kids here there and yon or working, etc. To me friendship is born out of long talks and doing life. No one does that anymore. I reach out, but everyone is just too busy. I’m well liked, but 2am friends, nope. That said, when my husband had a major health crisis the entire church took care of my children and such. Everyone “knows” me, likes me but I’m not really close to anyone if that makes sense.
What kind of friend is Jesus to you; how do you experience His friendship? . . . . . . . Mostly in prayer. In prayer, I find intimacy with Jesus and also real happiness. Before all my many requests (twice a day), I practice silent, wordless, quiet prayer. Passively listening for Jesus’s Words and Voice in my soul. I can honestly say His presence and Love are more real to me than you would be if you were in the same room with me. It is that Really, REALLY, real. —So, that is most days. . . . . —BUT, we were ALSO asked “for reals-style”. . . . . . . . On some really bad days (—very few, thankfully!), in the midst of misery, loneliness, or need, I will think: A friend who did so little for me, despite having every resource in the Universe and the ability to do anything, and nothing to lose by using those resources, is ridiculing me with His disdain. —Yes, I repent of that but that is “for reals-style.” On a few really bad days, that’s Christianity in the No-Spin Zone “for reals-style!” Full-disclosure-style. I’ll be honest-style.
What kind of friend is Christ supposed to be to you? . . . . . . . —Closer than a sister/brother and with me every day. —He wants my best even when I don’t understand the why. He helps me clean my heart: washes, sanctifies, justifies me. Gives me good gifts and thousands of blessings (—notice how I forget that on bad days!!!). Let’s me know what His Father is doing through His Word. Gives His life for me. Comes and dines/ visits with me. Takes my burdens. Encourages, comforts and gives me affection. Helps me discern what is the will of God for me. Is faithful to forgive me my sin and doubt. Knows what I am going through!
What are the differences between how Christ really IS your friend now, and how He actually could be? . . . . . . .The whole difference is when I doubt, don’t seriously clean my heart or I break fellowship with Him. That is where all the differences come from.
What kind of friend are YOU? Take an honest look at how you treat your friends. Do you gossip with them, thereby encouraging them to sin? Do you lead them into doing the right things, or do you lead them away from God? . . . . . . . —I rarely gossip about/ with my friends because I hate that. —I so hate that. I always try to lead them into deeper faith by exploring more the depths of Truth of who Christ was and is. That gets us in trouble sometimes but my operating assumption is that you always have to go for the Truth, even if it sends the whole entire edifice crashing down around you. Truth is what can stand up to any level of questioning. All truth is safe, but nothing else is safe. It will not endure. Anyone who keeps back the truth, withholding it based on ignorance or motives of expediency or “to increase faith” is a criminal to Christianity.
Are you loyal, honest, trustworthy, reliable, etc.? . . . . . . .Absolutely. Now, maybe I have not been tempted above what I can bear but so far, yes I am! (—Of course, that would better be evaluated by others re: self-serving bias).
Take inventory of your current friends. Which, if any (these take a long while to find) are the 2am Girls? . . . . . . . I don’t currently have any of those type girls. I don’t know if I ever have.
Which, if any, of your friends shouldn’t be on the list? Do these friends encourage you to do the next right thing, or do they drag you into sin? . . . . . . . I have a few friends that maybe should not be my friends, I suppose. They do not drag me into blatant sin (—Thank God I have no evil “friends” like that, nor would I tolerate that at all) but rather, I do have some friends that get me thinking and questioning by speaking what they believe is the truth (—maybe that makes them actually worse, I just don’t know.) For example, I was having coffee with my friend Christine (Ph.D. archeologist, OT scholar, and specialist in Christian origins) earlier last week, and she told me that if the average Christian today saw what the original Christians looked like in the 1st century CE, well, they would not even recognize them or their beliefs as anything even remotely close to their own. She went on to explain in detail that the Christians of the 1st century were a (long since extinct) apocalyptic cult that expected the end of the world in their generation. Christine then asked me: “How can Christians like you have such in-depth knowledge of the contents of the Bible, and yet fail to appreciate the context in which it was written?” I was listening and taking notes as she talked. I asked her to pray afterward and she sincerely prayed that the Lord would show her Truth. We had a further conversation and I went on to logic her out of some of her positions but she always makes more good points than I can ever fully refute. The reason she is still my friend is that she takes the Bible more seriously than most Christians I know. She passionately cares about the Truth. I so want her to taste and see that the Lord is good but she has valid, serious questions that can’t be answered by gloss-it-all-over, don’t really interact with the questions in any meaningful way, just peddle argument-from-authority, pastors and “teachers.” —You know, the “Why are you asking that?” kind. She will say to me: “Rebecca, Truth is that which stands up to ANY degree of questioning!” That sounds right to me, Christine! -But, Christine, I will let you go as a friend if Jesus tells me to. Yes, I love Him more than you. . . .Even though I will so miss you, you truth-seeker warrior!
Describe yourself as the friend you want to be. Write down all the things you feel you are doing well, and the things you sense God wants to change in your life to make you a better vessel for His great love to others. . . . . . . .What I am doing well, well, I should not be the judge of those things but things I can do better are: Listen WAY more, talking WAY less. I always talk too much and listen too little. That is a major issue I have.
Describe the “perfect friend.” What would she do or not do? How would you spend your time together? . . . . . . . .She would be someone I can call up in the middle of the night (4 am even) and who will pray with me. Someone who will walk together through ANY storm sharpening each other in the Lord. Someone who can know when I start to cross the line and will hold me accountable. Someone who will come to my rescue and knows I would do the same. Someone to lift me up and pray me through even a spiritual typhoon.
Take a moment and review how much time you spend with Jesus, either by reading the Bible, worshiping, attending church services, and especially being alone with Him and praying – and most importantly, listening. If you feel like you don’t have Him as your most intimate friend, you need to spend more time with Him. How will you do that? . . . . . . . . —The only way I can. Take time from other areas. Say “no” to good things to say “yes” more often to Him. I can see by my numbers, I really do spend a lot of time with Him, but I can also see the path to the higher place to go is even more time with my Lord.
You are just gorgeous.
And I’m praying He brings the 2am girls into your life. 🙂 They are worth more than their weight in gold. Until you find those women know we pray for you – you are NOT alone. Reach out any time.
Love to you,
. . . .[smiling] . . . that is so very kind, thank you. . . . and I pray for all of you too, every single day. . . . Sometimes, at 2 or 3am, if I go to the refrigerator to get some cold water, I do know I often hear God just overwhelmingly saying: “Come, be alone and spend time with me, Rebecca.” –And I do, and I am just overwhelmed by God’s love. —Or as Scripture says: There’s a voice in the wind that calls YOUR name, if YOU listen, you’ll never be the same (John 3:8).
So glad to read this devotionals again! I’m so thankful for the 2 am friends that God has blessed me with. My marriage has been difficult but my friends have been able to help me keep going.
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