My goodness it has been a full year! We finally made it out of 2020. Well as least that year is over, and perhaps in everyone’s own time, at some point they can look ahead at 2021 with a little hope. There were times throughout the year that the days felt so long, and like they would never end. Yet, it feels as though everything went by so quickly. As this new year begins, I feel a cluster of emotions ranging from relief, hope, and loneliness. I also feel sorrow for those who lost so much and continue to intensely feel the pain of 2020 as it has spilled into 2021. A few weeks ago, we were in the hustle and bustle of the holiday gifting season. Can you think of a gift that you received that left you totally surprised and speechless, a gift that made you feel that the other person really poured thought into what would make your heart leap and bring joy? Although receiving and giving gifts brings about a lot of encouragement, inside the hearts of so many there is a gift they long for and desire that absolutely no one is able to give. Some of the priceless gifts I think of are children, a loving husband, thriving career that one feels passionate about, and good health.
Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking most about the priceless gift of deep friendship. I admire the consistent presence friends all throughout the Bible maintained between each other. I love the message translation for Proverbs 18:24 which says “Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family”. Consistency within my relationships is one of the things I find makes me feel like I’ve gone from just being a friend to feeling like family. This has been felt when my friends and I make a conscious and mutual effort to get together on a specific day each week or month. We catch up over tea or have dinner together. As I’ve made friends with busy moms, I’ve watched them so graciously consistently invite me into their home and make me feel like one of the family. Choosing a day for prayer that is regularly scheduled each week for just the two of us to come before God and provide the space for each other to get completely undone and bring our brokenness before God has provided some of the most intimate experiences that I’ve shared with friends. The Bible gives examples of relationships like Ruth and Naomi as well as Mary and Elizabeth. These women demonstrate the power of making sacrifices for friends and how it communicates the level of care one has for their friend as they choose to step out of what is convenient and comfortable for them and joyously serve. There were times I traveled far distances to visit friends, and God always exceeds my expectations for what transpires during those special times of creating memories with my friends. When a friend sacrifices her time and goes out of her way to visit me it gives me hope, and symbolizes that the foundation of our friendship isn’t shaken by the obstacles encountered with distance. Forgiveness is another aspect of the gift of friendship that gives me reassurance. The more the women in my church meet and grow close, the more we reveal about ourselves to each other and inevitably because we are human’s we hurt each other. I am so humbled by their choice to risk getting hurt by me because perhaps they feel it’s worth it to push through to get to the blessings God wants to reveal as a result of persevering in our friendship. I am surprised by how certain friendships have grown over the years because I said to myself that I could never see myself being close with a particular women and God completely proved me wrong. At times I’ve been hurtful, and these women could have distanced themselves from me and just chose to love me from afar, but instead of placing boundaries they chose to keep being completely transparent with me about the challenges of their life and entrusting me with their heart. Throughout my dance journey I’ve also been gifted with friends who are dancers, choreographers, and supporters of the arts. These friends have blessed me with opportunities to use my gift of dance. They’ve motivated me to keep dancing, while reminding me in their own creative way that God has a plan for my dancing.
The time my friends have taken to get to know me, encourage me through the ways that communicate love to me, and invest in how they can be a better friend towards me has shown their desire for connection within our relationship. Friendships take time and patience to develop, and they also go through different changes. It’s healthy to leave room and grace for those seasons, but what a gift from God it is to have a committed friend. In John 15:15, Jesus calls his followers friends. I was listening to a lesson and the speaker mentioned that the word friend means preferred companion. He went on to explain how Jesus prefers to be with us. I thought about that and was comforted by Jesus’s capacity to be everyone’s best friend, and be equally as close to me as he is with everyone else on this planet. So, in my darkest times of loneliness, Jesus is my most perfect friend and comforter, who understands everything I’m feeling, thinking and going through far beyond anyone else. He sacrificed himself on the cross, and his pursuit of friendship with me didn’t stop there because he shows me consistently without fail the depth of his love. Jesus always makes time for me, and has vowed to never abandon me (Hebrews 13:5). He not only listens to my prayers but has the authority to answer my prayers. “As far as the east is from the west so far has, he removed my transgressions from me” Psalm 103: 12. Jesus has a way of forgiving my offenses as though they’ve never even happened. The friendship Bible verse I’m meditating on is 1 Samuel 18:3 “Johnathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as his own soul”. This picture of love is a reoccurring message throughout the Bible. Later in the new testament we are told in John 15:13, “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. As I reflect on my relationship with the women in my life and Jesus’s example of friendship, I’m convicted by how God has used the gift of friendship to allow me to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.