Thursday, August 15, 2013

10 Marks of Friendship

I listen to the radio this morning and hear the tail-end of something, so I may have missed the main thing.  But this is what I heard: you’re known by the friends you keep.  The speaker went on to talk about our sin and seemed to be saying to watch out for who we hang out with.

Fine advice, perhaps, for our teenagers, who may not yet have developed their resistance muscles sufficiently to stave off temptation to all kinds of stuff we’d rather they didn’t.


But I am more minded of Jesus and his collection of friends, who weren’t all that.  In fact, they were gluttons and drunkards (Matthew 11.19) . . . his betrayers (Matthew 26.50) . . . tax collectors (Luke 7.34) . . . those who could do nothing for him in return (Luke 14.12) . . . the dishonest (Luke 16.9) . . . those whose station in life gave them no right to claim him as friend (John 15.15) . . . the sinners (Luke 19.7) . . . those Jesus claimed as friends were unsuitable in every way.  Even being seen with them ruined his reputation.

In friendship, as with all human relationships, there is an unspoken assumption of mutuality – that we can and do do for each other.  There’s nothing wrong with that, so far as it goes.  But the reality of lived relationships is that there are times when one must carry the other, be the strength for the other, show the other the way.  Sometimes it’s my turn.  Sometimes it’s yours.  But sometimes, it’s always your turn.  Or mine.  There is no graph or chart by which to measure such things, for the fact is, it’s not only some days that my need is the greater; sometimes it’s a whole lifetime when my need is the greater.  And sometimes, as Henri Nouwen learned when he lived in the L’Arche Community, the one who thinks he’s meeting the needs is actually having his own needs met.  Things are not always as they seem.

I think Jesus knew that.

I think Jesus picked his friends based on their need of him more than out of his need for them, but in the picking, I suspect Jesus received as well as gave, learned as well as taught.

But back to the original point: there are marks of friendship.  Here are my top 10:

1. You say yes just because I asked.  Simple as that.

2. You meet me where I’m at, and don’t wait for me to get to where you think I should be.

3. You like my hair, my tattoos, my clothes, my house, because I do.

4. Yes, you tell me the hard things, but mostly you don’t – because you know that I already know.

5. You never have to say that anything is for my own good.  We both already know my good is all you desire for me.  It never need be said.  You’re my friend, so you never preach.

6. You rejoice when I rejoice.  My happiness makes you happy.

7. You have no agenda to change me.  You love me as I am.  And you are wise enough to know that for the stuff that needs changing, change will come because we spend time together, not because you tell me to change it.

8. You know I will let you down.  But you already forgave me for that when you decided to be my friend.

9. You don’t keep score.  You know that some days, maybe even most days, you’ll be a better friend to me than I am to you.

10. You know that while I may be what I do, I am not all that I do.

It all comes down to acceptance, doesn’t it?  Acceptance doesn’t mean that you jump into the deep end of the pool with me.  It doesn’t mean that you make my problems yours.  It doesn’t mean that you let me walk all over you.

But acceptance does mean that you take me as I am.  It does mean that you don’t worry to much about how good or deserving I am, because you’re wise enough to realize that I am a work in progress.  It does mean that you see my worth regardless of the judgment of the world.

It is a great gift – this gift of friendship that has been given me, for I have been blessed with many people along my life’s journey who have greeted me thusly.  I hope that I have been a good friend in return, saying yes to all your crazy schemes and dreams as you have to mine . . . been there for you as you have been there for me . . . or not . . .

So to all I call friend, thank you for carrying me when I needed it.  Thank you for your time.  For your caring.  For your forgiving in advance.  For knowing me just as I am and finding in that something to call good and worthy.  For being my friend.

I hope I live up to the honor.

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