This week we were privileged to have one of the charter members of our Tuesday Morning Women’s bible studies, Claudine Lehman, share lessons she’s learned on the topic of friendship. Because she had such a wealth of information, I’m dividing her message into two parts, one which I’ll post today; the other, tomorrow. Please take a few moments each day to ponder what she has to say.
Friends can be our greatest blessing, and yet they also can cause our greatest hurts.
Everyone needs to be loved . . . and to love. We need to feel significant to a few special people. We need the security that comes through friendships.
When you think of friendship, what are the two most important elements you look for in a friend? Are they loyalty? Acceptance? Honesty? Unconditional love? Think about that for a moment and then keep your answer for later.
We all know and acknowledge that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is our dearest, closest, moment-by-moment friend.
The Word tells us that He is closer than a brother. He will never leave . . . never disappoint . . . never harm (though sometimes his discipline may hurt for a moment). He never fails . . . always understands . . . always loves unconditionally. He knows our deepest needs. Our Heavenly Father desires an intimate relationship with us.
Sometimes in our friendships, we expect our friends to do what only Jesus can. No one person can possibly do all of that. It’s not fair to put that burden on any human being.
I remember a conversation I had with my friend – my hairdresser – many years ago. This was during the days of extreme back combing and she was doing that with all her concentrated might. I could feel that something was bothering her.
“Kathy, what is wrong?” I asked.
“I just wish God would give me a real friend . . . someone I could tell my deepest thoughts to and they would understand . . . someone who would never take anything wrong . . .” And on and on she went.
“Kathy,” I said. “That is not humanly possible. Only Jesus can do all of that.”
And yet, God didn’t make us loners. We need each other.
God uses people in our lives – ‘like iron sharpens iron’ – to comfort and encourage and support and knock off the rough edges and show us our blind spots. He uses people to give us a sense of worth, love, and security.
I believe that true, positive, lasting friendships are rare, so we must build friendships carefully, deliberately and wisely and treat them with tender loving care.
I well remember my first few years right out of college. I’d been married a little over two years and was a new first-time mother. My life underwent some drastic changes – from the excitement and exhilaration of college life . . . to the sandhills of Nebraska living in a 26-foot trailer in ranching country where the nearest neighbor was far away. There were no street lights, and I’m a city gal. I was far from all that I had known or was used to with no other gal my age in the church or community we served.
I felt so alone, isolated, and unsure of myself in every area—cooking, canning, sewing, shopping (in little towns miles away with no major shopping centers). I really needed a friend.
The only gal that even came close was a lady, an outsider in the community like me, who was excellent at everything I wasn’t. And she seemed to like me – and liked having me around – so when Curt (a farm guy from Indiana) went to help farmers/ranchers with harvest or whatever they do, I’d go spend the day with my new friend. I really enjoyed being with her. She accepted me even though I had very little to offer to our relationship. Her 5-year-old played with my 1-year-old. I learned so much from watching her work—canning, cooking, sewing, etc.
But I found that when I went home, I had a lousy attitude toward Curt. He didn’t sound right, look right, act right. I’d pick on him for the littlest things. We finally figured out what was wrong. I was treating Curt like my friend treated her husband. She was not a happy wife. Her husband could not do anything to please her. She didn’t like living there and nothing was good enough for her. And I picked up on that and began to feel the same way too.
Though the two of us remained friends, I learned I had to distance myself some and remember not to let her influence my marriage.
We need to be careful, deliberate and wise about who we let influence us.
Some time ago I came across something that really helped me in this area. There are levels of Friendships – all are needed and should be embraced and each one is important to our wholeness. But we need to be careful as to which friends we allow into each category.
The four levels of friendship are Acquaintance, Casual, Close and Intimate. With every level there are:
- distinguishing characteristics
- accompanying responsibilities
- ways to develop each friendship
Not all my friends need to be close friends and very few of my friends will be intimate friends. Yet all of my friendships are necessary to fulfill different needs.
Again I’m so grateful that my Heavenly Father is my best friend and He encourages me into friendships with others. We are indeed rich when we have many friends. I’m thoroughly convinced that God loves us, encourages us, nurtures us and supports us through other human beings. They can almost become to us “Jesus with skin.”
Now, as we close, think back to those elements you most wanted in a friend and ask yourself, “What kind of friend am I?”