My husband has a particular laugh that only comes out in the presence of his closest friends. It’s a deep belly laugh, almost a shout of joy. But when I hear it, I detect more than fun being had. Certainly, there will have been some reminiscence of past mischief and a re-telling, for the umpteenth time, of a favourite story. But through all the noisy jovial chatter I detect something else. I hear freedom, trust, safety and history; a place to be at home.
That’s friendship at its best, isn’t it?
It’s International Friendship Day and so I have been thinking about my relationships today and counting my blessings. I’ve always enjoyed my friendships but in the last few years I’ve come to appreciate many of my closest friends on a much deeper level. As I’ve walked through all kinds of uncertainty over a long period of time, they have accompanied me each step of the way, often with prayer, cake, acceptance, wine and wisdom – all of which I have been in need of at various points! They have given me a place to feel safe with my questions and doubts, and their companionship has given me strength to get up from my knees and keep walking on more than a few occasions. On days when you don’t know how to pray anymore, or you are tired and frustrated asking God for the same things with only silence as a reply, it’s an extraordinary comfort to know that there are others holding your faith for you, being faithful friends in a truly precious way. I am thankful beyond words for those people. They hold a very special place in my heart.
Experiencing that kind of friendship challenges me to think about the kind of friend that I am in return. Do I give of myself, even on the days when I am feeling particularly selfish? Do I make the time on days when I am tired and busy? Am I short and impatient rather than understanding and caring, when someone is dealing with the same issue as last month, and the month before? On my worst days, I certainly feel that I receive friendship better than I give it. Perhaps we all do from time to time, and it’s the very sign of true friendship that lets those days go, understood and forgiven. I hope so.
And so today, as I stop and give thanks for this area of my life where I feel rich beyond measure, I also commit myself to being a better friend. The kind of friend who, to borrow some words from the book of Romans, is joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. A friend who will be devoted in my relationships and will honour others above myself, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep.
It’s a high standard to be held to, but having been on the receiving end of this beautiful picture of friendship, I’m up for the challenge.