2020-05-19 - Friendship
God has given me several callings. One of these started back in my teens, when He began putting Letters to the Editor on my hearts. I would have a passion for standing up for a cause or expressing a concern - and sometimes be unable to sleep until the letter is written. Through God's grace and words, I have had hundreds published through the years, from all manner of papers - from "Teen" magazine to my college newspaper to local weeklies, as well as the Atlanta Journal, vacation city newspapers, and all the way to the New York Times, with all manner of diverse papers in between. Some of the papers were small, but some have been of the type that receive hundreds of letters per day from which to choose - and must cull just a few from those. God has given me the words, for through the years, all of mine but two have been published.
My most recent foray into letter writing was published, and it was a REALLY BIG DEAL for me, because of the people who published it, and the purpose of the publication. Part of it was about something burning on my heart, the need to reserve disinfectant supplies for first responders and health care workers, who have sometimes been short of them. This publication was one of the most important to me, ever because it is a passion on my heart. Naturally, I wanted to share my excitement with a handful of friends, so I sent it to just six people. With five of them, I made it clear in the subject heading that it was a big deal to me. With one special friend, I wrote her separately and confused her - and we both got a laugh out of it! They were all six people whom I chose because I believed would WANT to read the letters, people who genuinely cared about me and my writing - and who would take the time to read them, or so I thought. I certainly would have done so for them. I didn't realize it until afterward, but this sharing became an informal experiment about friendship. Four of the friends did read it, and responded with varying reactions - support for my main point, as well as excitement and pride. Two of the people didn't bother to read it. It was a relatively short letter, which would have taken about two minutes of their time. They didn't have the power to hurt me, so I am not injured, nor am I angry; you have to GIVE those powers to people, and I am very stingy with that! I can count those people on one hand, for myself. who are allowed that ability. For our mental health, it is best to limit that power. I learned that long ago, even before we were taught that in Stephen Ministry training. However, this event was very telling, and certainly an eye opener for my OWN self, as well as a dividing line between real and deep friendships vs. more surface level acquaintances.
This has been a thought-provoking life-examining moment for me, about what kind of friend I AM to others. I want to BE among the four; I want to BE the type of friend who is caring and interested. Basically, I want to be a Philippians 2:4 Christian. "Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (NIV)
When someone tells me about something going on with them, am I listening and focusing on THEIR words (whether in email, phone, text, or whatever means God is using)? Or am I biding my time, waiting to share my own thoughts or situation?
When I am praying, are others' needs in the first-class section of the prayer list, or are they second-hand thoughts in cargo?
Naturally, since we are all human, relationships are rarely going to be 50-50. Often, they may be 60-40, and in rare instances, they may move all the way to 95-5. But in a healthy friendship, there will be a give-and-take, a GENUINE interest in others' lives - and not, not for gossip. For those who cannot distinguish gossip from honest and caring sharing, I would recommend a good Bible study about what gossip is and isn't. Friendship isn't about judging and making decisions about what is best for others. It isn't about being doormats, but rather mutual respect. It isn't about being holier-than-thou, but rather humble. It is about being Jesus to them, as best we can. It isn't about being alike, but rather learning from each other, which also requires that humility.
My prayer is that God leads us all to people who need our friendship, and that we do a good job of providing that friendship, as well as showing appreciation for the true friends with whom we are blessed.
All verses are from the New American Standard Version (NASB) unless otherwise noted.
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