I love meeting new people. The opportunity that new relationships bring can be exciting. However, most people you meet don’t tend to hang around very long. Most people you meet have little if any lasting impact on your life. But every once in a while, someone you meet becomes a friend.
I believe we were created for relationships. I believe God created mankind to be in relationship with him. He created Eve because Adam was having a hard time connecting relationally with the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. So our human relationships are important. I love my cats, but they are not really great conversationalists, and they have a hard time giving me sound advice.
As parents, we realize the importance of friendships in our children’s lives. I can remember when my best friend worried that her oldest child would not have any friends. He suffered a brain tumor as an infant and he faces struggles daily that you and I will never know. My friend understands the importance of relationships, and she worried that her boy might not have those because of his disability. (Well, God heard her pleas, and he had a plan for her son. God gave her son a full well of joy. He will soon turn eighteen, and that boy is a rock star. He is blessing to all who meet him and have the joy of having a conversation with him. I am blessed to call him my friend.)
Relationships matter, and I learned as a young adult that friendships are not all meant to last a lifetime. When you grow up in the same house, attend the same schools and church for your whole childhood, you might begin to think that everyone who is your friend, is intended to be your friend, for life.
But I have learned this important truth. People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. The Bible tells us there is a purpose for every season under heaven. This is true of relationships, I believe.
I used to take it hard when friendships ended. I can remember as a young pastor’s wife learning the hard way that sometimes friendships end. Sometimes friendships are situational. My husband had taken a job as pastor in a church in North Carolina. It was a far cry from anything I had known in Alabama. One particular family really took us on and added us to their “family”. Right up until Matthew was no longer their pastor. When we felt the Lord leading us in a new ministry direction, they no longer had a desire to be in relationship with us. My heart was broken. My love for this family was not situational. I had no frame of reference for something like that.
I had to learn that some relationships are for a reason. I had moved away from my home and I needed a surrogate mother. This older woman had been that for me for the first couple of years I was away from my own mom.
Some relationships are for a season. When I think back to my childhood friends, I remember all the things we learned together about life. Most of these folks have moved on from my life, but the important life lessons we learned together are still a part of who I am. I could try to go back and renew some of those relationships, but many of them would not hold up today. We are not who we were then, but they were valuable people to me for that season of my life.
Some relationships last a lifetime. The Bible tells us about a really great friendship that was had between Jonathan and David. These two young men made a connection early in their lives, and were committed to each other even after death. Their friendship was stronger than even their familial relationships. Sometimes we are blessed with those kinds of friendships. These are friends that stick around for a lifetime. Those are rare. I have only one friend who has stuck close to me longer than my husband. I don’t deserve her, I am not nearly as good a friend as she is, but I am blessed by her presence in my life. If you have a Jonathan and David kind of friendship with someone, you are blessed indeed.
It can be heartbreaking to move on from a friendship. We are hardwired to cling to relationships. I think it can be helpful as we move through life and journey through relationships, that we remember that sometimes relationships come along for a reason or a season. And rarely, you find that person who sticks with you to the end and beyond.
The Bible talks about a friend who sticks closer than a brother. I tell my kids that friends can come and go, but their brothers (or sister) are there to stay. I want my kids to be able to count their siblings as lifetime friends. God understands the closeness that can exist between siblings and he offers us an even closer one through Jesus. I can be a lousy friend at times. I can offend people with my forgetfulness or procrastination. But I cannot offend Jesus. He already knew my shortcomings when he chose me. There was nothing I could hide from him, to expose slowly as our friendship matured. He knew it all from the get go, and he chose me anyway. Nothing I can do, nothing I can say or be will make him stop being my friend.
I think it’s easier to walk through this life of mostly temporary relationships if we can count on that one permanent one. We all need one friend, which no matter the reason or season, will be with us for a lifetime and beyond. Thank you, Jesus, for being that kind of friend.