Yesterday morning my husband was out of town and I was doing the getting-everyone-ready-for-school thing when out of the blue one of my children took a turn for the worse in the behavior department.
I should have expected it. This child doesn’t handle disruptions to routine very well, and daddy’s absence was bound to have an effect sooner or later. But for some reason, that moment of refusing to eat, followed by pretending not to hear me, followed by defying every small instruction, felt like it would undo me.
I was tired. I hadn’t slept well. I wasn’t even ready for the day myself because I had slept in, so I was feeling behind and a little overwhelmed. There were still so many steps left in the getting ready routine, and I just felt I didn’t have it in me to have a throw-down about cereal.
I was tempted to call my husband, but knew it wasn’t good timing, and would only serve to add a burden to his already full plate, worrying him about what was going on at home. So instead I shuffled over to the phone in my slippers and let out a huge sigh and texted a good friend.
Will you pray for me?
Child xxx has taken a turn for the worse.
Josh out of town.
I walked away from the phone, a little lighter just for having admitted my weakness and getting a friend in there with me. I went back to the kids’ table and, long story short, things got better. I remembered how to engage said child, and the defiance turned around fairly quickly. I was even able to grab a shower and get ready while they finished their routine, and we were out the door on time. A small miracle on an average Tuesday morning.
It was then that I checked my phone again and had a wonderful series of texts from my friend. A promise to pray followed by some practical advice. This friend also has a child who requires more creative methods and it was one of the reasons I knew she would know how to pray for me.
Oddly enough, the advice she gave was exactly what I had done. It was like, in a sense, she prayed her advice over to me, even though I didn’t get it in time.
I share this story because something I’ve been learning to love again recently is the gift of real, deep, friendship. My husband and I were both struck anew with it’s importance as he prepared to preach on Proverbs 18:24.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
True friends, the kind we’re meant to have, the kind we’re created for, stick. Closer than even the best family member does. They don’t let you come to ruin. They love you too much to let you go.
In essence, they are an extension of Jesus to us. A friend knows the soul and loves, anyway. Patient when we fail. Gently confronting our sins. Forgiving us. Holding us up, renewing our strength, sticking with us through the great stuff and the really hard stuff.
But, if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking, that sounds really nice, but how do you even get there. Let’s be totally honest here, making close friends is HARD work.
I mean first there’s the initial getting to know people part, which is sometimes painful even for extroverts like me. I hear it’s hard for introverts, because, well, people. But as someone who enjoys being around people, I still struggle to not make an idiot of myself while making small talk with new people.
Then, if you make it past that, you start to see each other’s flaws. This can sometimes be a bonding experience, if you happen to share said flaws (i.e. “What?! I do that TOOOOO!”) But it’s sometimes frustrating as well (i.e. “What on earth. Who does that??”).
But after that comes the real stuff, where you start to really open up. It takes a lot of vulnerability, and it doesn’t always deliver. You risk someone finding out who you really are and not getting it, or getting it but having the absolute worst response. In the reverse, you find yourself having to figure out how to respond to their crazy pasts and presents. There’s a lot of potential for giant mess there.
And, if you stick with it long enough, and really do open up, then eventually there is conflict, and learning how to say, “Hey, that hurt my feelings” or “I don’t know that you should have done that.” And you must be open to the same being said to you.
And all of this sounds sticky and messy but think about all that God is building and changing in us when we say yes to true fellowship. If it’s part of His plan for us, then it’s good, even when it’s hard. We grow in patience. We grow in humility. And we experience intimacy, something that is at the very core of who we are as created beings meant for eternal relationship with God.
As I texted with that friend it was so easy. But that’s a friendship 12 years in the making, with lots of ups and downs and crazy life events going into it. Now I have a friend, and she’s one of many, who sticks closer than a brother.
Do the hard work of making friends. It’s for your good, and for God’s glory.