Recently I went online looking for a quote on friendship. A long list of heart-warming sentiments filled my screen, along with some pretty funny truths reflecting the complexity of relationships. There was one from C.S. Lewis that said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” And “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” – Oprah Winfrey.
Friends, especially close friends, are people in our lives who allow us to see ourselves as somewhat normal and yet special at the same time. They are the people who are there with us in the good times and show up even when we don’t want them to – when we are at our worst, in the bad. At our house we have a name for the people God has put in our lives that we do this kind of life with – we call them FRAMILY. They are the people that embody the quote “After all, friends are the family you choose.”
The Bible has some great things to teach regarding what we are to look for when choosing friends. Proverbs 18:24 says “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This tells us that it is quality of friendship, rather than the quantity, that really matters. While we live in a world that measures popularity by the number of friends we have on Facebook, or followers on Instagram, the Bible speaks of something deeper and more thoughtful when it comes to relationships.
The Bible teaches that we are not only to be intentional when it comes to choosing friends; we are to be cautious. Proverbs 12:26 states, “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” That is because friendship is often, but not always, a positive thing: where good friends can be life giving, bad friends can actually bring us down and take us off course. Good friends are the people whose heart-commitment is shown in practical, often sacrificial, ways. They are the ones who are quick to encourage when we doubt, tell the truth, even when it hurts, and leave all the makings for nachos on our doorstep when we’ve had a really bad day. These are the kind of people we want to invite into our inner circle, the ones we give permission to speak into our lives.
One of my best friends is someone I got to know in college. (We are in our 50’s now, so you can do the math.) We went to class together (and ditched class together) and ate more Mexican food than anyone should ever eat, TOGETHER! He toilet papered my house and I responded by removing all the wheels on his car; we went on road trips, double dates, and had many late-night conversations about God, faith and what we wanted to do in life. On my birthday one year, he gave me a very special present. He had carefully wrapped up his favorite denim jacket (which trust me, he wore practically every day) and presented it to me. Tucked neatly inside the folds of the jacket was a card with this passage from 1 Samuel 18 “Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” While I didn’t fully comprehend all the gift symbolized then, I certainly do now. He was giving me more than his beloved jacket that day, he was giving me himself. That’s what friends do.
Giving ourselves away can be scary. It is a very vulnerable thing to let someone in so close that they know all of our stuff. Sometimes that fear can cause us to build walls that keep people out rather than doors that invite others in. The truth is, not everyone can hold our stuff. That is why we need to be concerned. And not everyone brings out the best in us, which is why we must learn to choose carefully. We must develop the capacity to choose well, because walling ourselves off is not an option. God has designed us for community and relationships, for knowing and being known. If we are going to become all God has created us to be, it is going to be in the context of community, because some of His best work is done in a circle of friends.
Lora Lightfoot is a Ministry Leader who serves as Regional Coach for the Far West Team at IF:Gathering. Lora is passionate about building relational bridges between women from different church families and encouraging women to walk out their faith in unity. With over 30 years of ministry experience, she loves to cheer women on to love God passionately, to support one another spiritually, and live out their God-given callings interdependently. Lora is a wife, a mom, and more recently, a grandmother, who lives in Merced, California.