Friendships worth fighting for

John and Al (3) All my life I’ve been blessed with great friendships. And I mean literally all my life; for my longest running relationship dates to within a few months of my birth. Al’s mom was my dad’s secretary, and our families lived on the same block barely a hundred feet apart. We had a couple lengthy separations, but at the encouragement of family members renewed our acquaintance.  Then there’s my buddy Doug whom I’ve known since fifth grade. He and I and two other friends from that era alternated as best man and ushers for each other’s weddings and became god-parents for some of our kids. At each phase of my life, from high school, to college, to my first full-time job, to subsequent career assignments, to each local church I’ve called home, I’ve developed lasting faithful friendships.

The more my wife and I have counselled other people it’s become increasingly apparent to us how unusual it is to maintain these types of close relationships. For the nature of social interactions is such that differences of opinions and personalities can so easily offend and drive wedges between people. It’s not that every person I call “friend” is a clone of me. In fact, as I assess the spectrum of my circle of close relationships, I see vast differences: between our varied political stances, our spiritual affiliations, our financial status, and our personal interests. Yet somehow we’ve overcome those differences to form even stronger bonds. That’s not to say that we haven’t had our struggles and disagreements at times – but love and reconciliation has thus far won out.

These types of friendships are always worth fighting for. For example, my wife has been blessed with some similar long-running friendships; one in particular extending all the way back to middle school, where she and her friend were both cheerleaders. But three years ago some personal challenges (health-wise, marital and familial) in her friend’s life led to a rift in that friendship. God recently began working on me to intervene and do what I could to restore that relationship. So last week I searched out and found an old cell phone number in my desk for her friend’s husband. I was actually surprised when the man answered. He told me he was in Florida and that he and Sandy’s friend had divorced two years earlier. We had a nice ten minute discussion, through which I was able to encourage him and wish him well and find out generally where his “ex” lived. A few days later Sandy got up the courage to call another old cell phone number that she had for her friend – and amazingly the woman answered. And they had their first good peaceful conversation in almost three years. Reconciliation is a wonderful gift of God.

Long-running friendships may be unusual in this day and age, but they’re worth fighting for. There’s an old proverb that says: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly; but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The author of this proverb was Solomon, the youngest son of King David. I’m reasonably certain that Solomon relied on his dad’s experience for the wisdom declared here; for David had a true friend in Jonathon, the son of his adversary, Saul; with Jonathon conceding both the throne and his life to defend David. In contrast, constant turmoil and infighting was a hallmark of Solomon’s relationship with his siblings who vied for the throne. Likewise, the few “friendships” he formed appear to have been obtained quid pro quo through their assignments to key posts of the military, and governmental, and religious institutions.

I pray that every one of you could be blessed with the abundance of genuine friends that God has graced me with. If you’ve allowed any of these relationships to lapse, either because you felt the two of you no longer have much in common, I encourage you to rethink your position. It may take a lot of time and effort to re-establish that relationship, but it will be worth it. There must have been a reason that your paths were allowed to cross once before. Friendship is a good gift and “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

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