August 30, 2011
I Need a Friend
But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her (Ruth 1:16-18, NIV).
Friendship is the catalyst for every other love and the foundation of every healthy relationship. God created us to need each other. We need friends and we need to be a friend. Over the next few days, we will continue to uncover nine keys to healthy friendships.
Key two: Risk
The emotional demands on women are vast. One of the ways God replenishes the emotional drains we experience is through friendships. Many women are convinced that the risk of having close friends outweighs the rewards. I disagree. There is no love without risk. Every friendship must contain the element of risk if it is to grow and mature, reaching its full potential. Ruth was willing to risk her very future for the sake of her friendship with Naomi. John 15:13 says it well. "Greater love has no one than this; that one lay down his life for his friends." When we choose to lay down our life, we automatically take a chance on being hurt, rejected, betrayed or misunderstood.
Anyone who knows me also knows that living foliage is doomed to die a premature death if left in my care for any length of time. I have even been known to kill a plant without touching it. In fact, the only hope any plant of mine has to live past its purchase date is for me to ignore its existence with great diligence. I am certain you can understand why I am in awe of anyone who gardens and is actually capable of growing green things.
I once had a neighbor who was known for her green thumb. In fact, everyone in our small Mississippi town knew that the most beautiful roses were found in Joyce's back yard. It was in that same yard where I learned an important lesson about friendship.
Every afternoon, after their nap time, I took our two children, Jered and Danna, outside to play in our fenced-in back yard. While the kids enjoyed the fresh air, neighborhood friends and their swing set, I enjoyed visiting with Joyce. Most of our conversations took place over the vine-covered fence and her dazzling rose garden. After weeks of watching Joyce plant, prune, water, feed, talk to and even sing to her "Rose Babies." I noticed that Joyce never handled the roses without wearing thick gloves to protect her hands from thorns. One day, our conversation abruptly halted when she yanked her hand into the air and yelled, "Ouch!" When I asked her why she insisted on growing roses instead of some safer and less prickly foliage, her answer was profound. "The beauty of the roses is worth the occasional wound they inflict," she replied. Joyce had learned to handle the roses with respect and in such a way that her wounds were few. Friendships are much the same.
Friends will hurt you. Friends will wound you. We would be wise to don thick emotional gloves when it comes to handling friendships. It is a fatal mistake to assign the responsibility for our happiness to friends. In reality, depending on a friend to make us happy sets that friend up for failure in the relationship and positions that friendship for inevitable destruction. For example, I have a friend who simply cannot keep a secret. She would do anything in the world for me - except keep her mouth closed. Because I love her and don't want to write her off as a friend, I have simply chosen to be cautious about what I share with her. Every friendship has a price tag of some kind attached. We just need to get to the place where love covers the cost.
The words of 1 Peter 4:8 say it well, "Love covers a multitude of sins." In this verse, "cover" literally means to "hide" or "overlook" the faults. Friendship knows the weaknesses are there, but chooses to love anyway. Friendship is always costly but always well worth the cost.
Key three: Transparency
In verse 16, Ruth offers an amazing display of transparency. "Where you go I will go. Where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God." Openness and honesty nourish friendship. We are naturally drawn to transparent people because transparency produces authenticity. In fact, one of the most winsome aspects of Jesus was the fact that He was so transparent and lived an authentic life. He did not remain aloof from His disciples. He lived among them, sharing every part of their lives. He ate with them, prayed with them, ministered with them, cried with them and laughed with them. Jesus repeatedly opened Himself up to the disciples.
John 15:15 "I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father."
Jesus made a deliberate choice to be transparent, modeling friendship at its best. He was hurt, betrayed and rejected by those He called friends. Still today, He waits for you and for me, longing to be the most transparent and authentic friend we have. Life can be a very lonely place. Jesus knows. Friendships are not only an important source of encouragement to us as women, but a valuable source of strength as well. I am convinced that if we built fewer relationship walls, we would have more friends and be a better friend.
Father, I have to admit that it is sometimes easier to be lonely than it is to be authentic and real with others. Forgive me for letting fear keep me from reaching out to someone in friendship. I am willing to risk being hurt. I am willing to be transparent in order to be a better friend. I lay every friendship at Your feet as an offering of praise for the Friend You are to me.
In Jesus' name,
Now It's Your Turn
Think of a time when you were hurt by someone you thought was a friend. How did you respond? Answer the following questions in light of that response.
Would you change your response if you could? How?
Did your response make the friendship stronger or weaker? In what way(s)?
Have you let go of the hurt and forgiven the person who hurt you?
Read Colossians 1:13-14. How do these verses influence the way you forgive the friends who have hurt you?
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