Who is that special person in your life? You know, the person who knew you before you became the person you are today. The someone who still calls you friend; your forever friend.
I met my forever friend in high school. She sat behind me in second period history class. She was a sophomore and I a senior. Both of us were skinny, down to the waist long-haired brunettes and our birthday happened to fall on the same day of the month. That’s about as much as we had in common. Yet somehow God drew us to each other.
I was blessed to spend the day with mine yesterday, celebrating our birthdays a day early. E is one special lady.
Adrian Rogers once wrote an article titled, “The Marks of a True Friend.” I couldn’t help but think of my special friend as I read the article. In his article he states:
A true friend sharpens. He will make you a sharper person, a better person. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” A true friendship will put an edge on your life. False friends dull your life, blunt your influence, and drag you down. Anybody who makes it easier for you to do wrong is not a true friend. One of the true tests of any friendship is asking yourself, “Am I a better person for having known this person?”
I’m definitely a better person because of E. I didn’t know what it meant to know God until I met her. No one ever told me. No one ever lived it in front of me day in and day out.
A true friend sticks. A true friend is steadfast. We read in Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” If you want to see who your real friends are, just make a mistake and see whether or not they leave you.
Life is like a ship. Some people get on and off board very easily. Some will stay on board as long as everything is sailing smoothly; but let the rough weather come, and they will abandon the ship. A true friend is the one who will stick with you.
E didn’t abandon ship. No matter what I was going through, she was there for me, treading the water with me, helping me stay afloat.
A true friend stabs. You say, “I don’t want to be stabbed.” Well, listen to Proverbs 27:6: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” A friend who really loves you will wound you if it’s necessary. That is, he will tell you the truth and won’t give you hypocritical kisses when he needs to do a little spiritual surgery on you. Flattery is not true friendship. A true friend cares enough to confront.
We had long conversations about life, as we knew it during those teen years and on into our adult lives; Probably saving each other a lot of heartache and bad decisions along the way.
True friends are built. You don’t make them overnight. Friendships are not toadstools; they are oak trees. Jesus said, “…Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Now, that’s the principle, but let me give you five secrets that come from it. If you will practice these, you will make you a great friend.
Accept. The Bible says in Ephesians 1:6 that God has “made us accepted in the beloved.” We all want people to accept us. Jesus accepted the disciples. He said, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you….” (John 15:16) Jesus did not accept the disciples because they were perfect but because they needed Him.
Even though E and I had little in common, we accepted each other as we were and are. We drew from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Acknowledge. Recognize people. Give them your full heart and attention. When you talk to people, listen to them also. Look them in the eye. Understand that people are important. They’re a soul for whom Christ died. When we acknowledge others, we’re saying, “You’re important to me. I acknowledge your presence and your importance.”
When E and I talked, we might not have always looked at things from the same angle, but we took the time to listen to each other’s ideas and never belittled a comment or action.
Appreciate. I got an e-mail from my son recently. It brought tears to my eyes because he said, “Dad, I’m just so grateful for the heritage that I have. Thank you.” I could live six months on that. It didn’t take him but a few minutes to write that little message, but it meant so much to me. Folks, you’re lying if you say you don’t want to be appreciated. Tell your husband, your wife, your children, or your friends that they are appreciated.
Affirm. Appreciation is for what people do; affirmation is for who people are. The Lord Jesus affirmed His disciples over and over again. It doesn’t mean you approve of everything a person does when you affirm them. The Bible is full of affirmations, and yet it acknowledges the fact that we’re sinners and that we fail. But affirmation is important.
I know E loves to garden. So, today I gave her a little marker for her birthday that says, “Life begins in a garden.” I tucked a card inside the gift bag. The card said, “To a Special Friend,” and went on to say how much she is appreciated and affirmed all the attributes that make her such a special friend.
Assure. Assure them that you understand. We all want empathy. The apostle Paul said in Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Find a way to let people know that you’re sensitive to what they’re up against, what they feel, what they’re going through. Assure them that you’re there, and that, to your limited ability, you understand or you’re trying to understand what they’re going through.
As E and I talked yesterday, we caught up on each other’s lives. The burdens and struggles that each have had over the years and our hopes for the future. There were times when I could only weep and say how sorry I was for her and she did the same as I shared.
True friendship is costly. It’s not easy to maintain a friendship. Remember John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” You must be willing to pay the price. But finding a true friend and being one in return is one of the best investments you can ever make.
It’s not easy to maintain a friendship. E and I had to make time for each other in a busy weekend. She coaches Special Olympics volleyball. This weekend is the time for all the matches and ceremonies. I have a CMA ministry event to serve at tomorrow. I chose to spend today with her at their matches, so I could take her out to an early dinner before their evening activities. I had a 45 minute drive to meet them at the game site, then after the games, follow them another 30 minutes back to the dorms where they are staying for the weekend, so I could take her to dinner and return her in time for the evening ceremonies.
You’re probably thinking, “No big deal.” Well, yes and no. You see, we live on opposite sides of the state. We haven’t seen each other in five years. And before that it was nearly 20 years. I wasn’t feeling up to par….but, it was a special day for two BFF’s to reconnect.
We picked up right where we left off…
I thank my God every time I remember you.
Dearest E …”I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11 NIV)”
Heavenly Father, I praise you for bringing special friends, especially E, into my life who have helped encourage me, affirm me, sharpen me and remain through all the storms of life. I pray that the one seeking that same type of friend will meet him or her today. In Christ’s name, AMEN.