Can you think about someone in your life who has been by your side, supporting, encouraging and loving you, by choice? Relationships started and ended, you changed jobs, your finances changed, your dress/pants size may have changed, but that friend has remained. How joyful and nostalgic it is to reminisce with someone who knows the shades, seasons and stories of your life and has not left your side.
The love that typifies friendship is unique to this special relationship. Those friends you know from childhood, college, by a casual encounter or by divine intervention, are the ones who you choose to love and who choose to love you. They never have an ulterior motive for this love, they have grown to know the sweetest side of you and they keep you grounded. These are the people who you still call, instead of just messaging. The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. (Proverbs 27:9)
I tend to describe this deep friendship as God placing a person in my heart; someone who I love strongly and will defend fearlessly. These friends will laugh with you, cry with you and step in to be whoever you need, whenever you need it, for as long as you need it. This friend waits with you when the situation is too difficult to vocalise, because there is no judgement, no jealously, no condemnation and no partiality.
This relationship is not restricted by age, gender, nationality or religion and social or financial standing are irrelevant. Its foundation and its longevity hinges on this sole criterion: Love. It transcends formal definition and requires no legal or biological connection, but was created by God, formed through love and sustained through selflessness.
So why have I taken so much time to extol the virtues of friendship? I feel that we sometimes tend to elevate one type of earthly relationship as most important maybe because of social norms or skewed perspectives. Wrapped up in a loving relationship with your mother and father is friendship, mixed into that enviable sibling bond is friendship and at the heart of that marriage is friendship.
Arguably, parents have an obligation to provide for and to support their children. Spouses also have obligations recognised in law to provide and support each other. Obligation and attraction can create a relationship, but the selfless love of friendship will sustain it. We should desire friendship in all our relationships because there is an element of choosing to love that differentiates friendship from all others (second only to our friendship with God). Choice is what makes our relationship with God through Jesus more special than any other, because God chose us and loved us, even when we did not choose him.
Friendship is the reason you tell your mother/father something that may disappoint them, because you know that it is a space without judgement and full of support. Friendship is the reason why your spouse is the first person you call when you are excited to give good news or want to share the troubles of a bad day, because he or she cares about you and cares about the things that make you happy or sad.
I have met people who say that they don’t have any close friends, or who think long and hard before a person comes to mind. I truly believe that every person should have at least one close friend and for those who find it difficult to maintain strong friendships, I will simply say, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24a). Social media platforms such as Facebook have contributed to an explosion in the overuse and undervaluing of the word 'friend' and there may be an entire generation that doesn’t know the difference.
Friendships like all relationships, take effort and require reciprocity. Relationships that are one-sided, by the very definition of the word, mean that one person gives a lot less effort. This type of relationship is often unsustainable and one person will eventually feel neglected, overworked and may determine that the ongoing inequity is unbearable. I am not saying that friendships or any relationship will constantly have 50/50 effort but what I am saying, is that you will have to ‘carry’ your friend in one season and then they will ‘carry’ you in another. The love that sustains your friendship will motivate you to go the extra mile.
Thankfully for many people this true friendship is packaged as a caring father, a devoted son, a loving spouse or awesome siblings. For others, your relationship with a parent may be undesirable, but your connection with your in laws, grandparents or aunts and uncles, may contain a friendship that is characteristic of parents. You may not have a husband or a wife yet, but you have friends who you can call at any time to share your highs and lows.
If all you have right now is a cherished friend, see the blessing in that relationship. God knows exactly what He is doing and has strategically placed those friends in your life. You may think that you need a particular type of relationship, but what you really need is a friend.
Keep your friends close, cherish them and never miss an opportunity to thank God for them. Your life will be missing a huge piece of its meaning without the unconditional and selfless love of a true friend. Take the time today to tell them how much you love them, how priceless their friendship is, how much you were able to endure because they were by your side and just how much better your life is because they are in it.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity”. Proverbs 17:7