** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **
I can remember a time not too long ago when I had no true friends. And I was happy. Or, at least I thought I was. If anyone had asked me, I would have quickly replied that I’m an ‘introvert’ and would prefer to be alone. I spent a lot of my life with people around, just from being a part of a church, and that was enough for me. I wasn’t a fan of having people around me for extended periods of time, or in private moments, or at all involved in my private life.
Then I realized that being an ‘introvert’ was really, for me, simply an excuse for my pride and selfishness. I like being able to present myself in a specific way for people to see and approve. I don’t like being open, I don’t like people seeing awkward things about me, and I don’t like them feeling free to speak a word of counsel to me. That’s all pride. And that kind of life is–simply put–unchristian.
I’ve had opportunities to write about friendship (here historically, and here more reflectively). I’ve even had opportunities to preach a series of sermons on friendship (find them here). So I don’t intend on teaching anything new or profound on friendship again. Rather, I wanted to offer two reflections on friendship in my own life.
1. I never cease to be amazed at how influential and beneficial friendship is. Hugh Black wrote the following in his book, Friendship:
A faithful friend can be trusted not to speak merely soft words of flattery. It is often the spectator who sees most of the game, and, if the spectator is at the same time keenly interested in us, he can have a more unbiased opinion than we can possibly have.
The true friend sees deeply, both the good and the bad. The friend who is with us in private moments and feels the intentions and longings of our soul is the friend who can at once identify with the same love our strengths and our weaknesses. That is the friend the Scriptures prize, who will speak words that faithfully wound, and words that will build up in love. Five words from that friend mean more than five thousand from another acquaintance. They have an incalculably influential position in our hearts.
2. I never cease to be amazed at how bad of a friend I am. The more I’ve had to think about friendship and study it biblically and historically in order to teach on it, the more jealous I am of those for whom it comes easily. While my being introverted was (is) an excuse for my being unskilled as a friend, it is still a reality with which I need to continually wrestle. I want to be private. I want to be elusive. I want to control how people know me. Plus, being introverted can also be an excuse for being relationally lazy. Those are realities with which I need to fight everyday. And those are realities that have won too many times in my life.
As I survey the 30 years of my life, and as I study the ideals of friendship, I’m constantly amazed at how bad of a friend I am to those who love me; how unfaithful I am in my love to those closest to me, and yet, how I’ve seen the forgiving and reconciling and longsuffering power of friend-love at work in them. It is humbling. God has blessed me with so many amazing friends who love me more than they should, and I’ve been such a poor friend in return. I’m thankful for all of the grace of God they have shown me in extending patience and kindness in spite of my failures as a friend.
If Jesus gives me life for another 30 years, and does not return, I pray that he will give me grace to kill sins which hinder friendship, and to treasure and nurture the love of those closest to me, so that my friendships run deeper and truer and purer in the next era of my life.