I am so grateful for lifelong friendships that have been a part of my life for decades, and for those I have made along life’s journey. I recently enjoyed a reunion with childhood friends. Although most of us are not able to be together often, we still hug, laugh, and cry together as we have for almost 60 years. These friends create a safe place to open my heart and bare my soul. The reunion started me thinking about what are the elements that make it possible to experience true friendships.
Sadly, Facebook has increased our reach to friends near and far, but it also has definitely changed the way we do friendship. Not since grade school have I ever thought that someone might “unfriend” me. You remember that recess conversation when a classmate chose to no longer play with you. “You are not my friend anymore.” Now, as adults, Facebook allows the childish response to “unfriend” friends. We friend people on Facebook for a variety of reasons, sometimes simply because we know a common friend, enjoy the same genre of music, or share the same faith traditions. In all honesty, I have friends on Facebook I have never met.
It is really unfair to put all this on Facebook. Texting has to take some of the blame for what I call cheapening friendship. We “talk” to friends without ever truly sharing life with them. Technology has changed the face of friendship to one’s best profile picture on a screen.
The view of friendship that keeps rolling around in my head comes from the Wisdom Literature. (I have taken editorial liberties in preference of my gender.)
A friend loves at all times, and a sister is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)
In the past, I think I viewed this verse as a nice adage about friendship, but thought its message to be that perhaps blood is thicker than water. With further study this week, I believe I have a better understanding of the literal interpretation of these well-known words of King Solomon. Through this new view, I look at this verse as a picture of true friendship. The notion expressed is that of a friend who loves in prosperity and adversity. She is more than a friend in time of blessing; she is a friend in time of need. She has a reputation of being affectionate and trustworthy, as one connected by the closest ties of relationship.
These thoughts led to me consider how these character traits are reflected in a friendship that indeed withstands prosperity and adversity; that loves at all times. The interpretation of the proverb notes that one is loving and trustworthy. Loving, not with a frail love that goes out with the winds of adversity. But a love that is true and trusting. My friend, Jim van Yperen writes in his book, Making Peace, that love without truth is not love, and truth without love is not truth. I like that, hard as it is to live out. It suggests a love where iron sharpens iron, where a love is trustworthy, and does not waver. A love that is unconditional.
I also believe grace is another trait that must be embedded in a friendship that loves at all times. Grace that is freely given. Grace that seeks the best for another. Grace that hopes. Grace that allows one’s love and trust to eclipse the hard times, and enrich the good times.
As I look at the true friendships that run deep in my life, each provide me a safe place to be me. Each is a holding place where my heart is never in danger because their love is trustworthy and their grace is offered unconditionally. They are truly a treasure I hold dear.