“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” ~Henri Nouwen
I’ve been thinking today about friends. I’m talking real, true friends, not just people you talk to in the aisle of Walmart because your kids were in the same classroom in 5th grade. No. Those are, well, people. They may be people you know very well or people you hardly know at all. Perhaps you share a common event with them or maybe you just know them from running into them at soccer games. Those aren’t friends. They could be–don’t misunderstand me. But, for the purpose of this writing, these are most likely not the friends I am referring to.
I came across the above quote in a magazine I was reading. It started my wheels turning about people in my life and who I consider a friend and why. Heavy stuff when one isn’t quite feeling too well. Nevertheless, my mind couldn’t stop the process once it was put into motion. I at once thought of a friend I have had almost all of my life. I met her in the middle school years. We came from different backgrounds, but we were the best of friends almost right from the start. We now live hundreds of miles apart, yet, this past summer I had the opportunity to reunite with her for a few hours. I tell you, it was like we were never apart! Our lives had changed–we both were now parents of teens–yet our conversation flowed as smoothly as it did when we were in high school. I also got to reunite with another childhood friend. This guy I have known as long as I can remember. He is a special friend to me, and now his wife is as well, and I make sure if I am back in my hometown that I stop and see him and his family. True friends…these I can pour my heart out to and each of them will share the pain. I know for I have experienced it.
That brought my mind to another place. What about people who have come into my life that, at one time, would have been named by me as friends–close friends even? Several names came to mind. Some of these names live very close to me, some even within the same town. These are no longer friends. Things happened, words were said, feelings were hurt, apologies were said and accepted, yet the friendship cord had been severed beyond repair. The sting is sometimes as fresh as if it happened yesterday even though, in reality, these events occurred months or even years ago. That’s when I realized something. I believe that some people are brought into a life for a short time in order to refine all involved. When that refinement takes place, when that lesson is learned, the “friendship” is no longer there. Maybe this is God’s way of showing us that it is indeed true that “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the stew”. That hurt, though, is often a painful reminder that even one time good friends can betray and backstab.
A third group of people, for me at least, would be new friends. I feel blessed that God has brought into my life some wonderful people who I now consider true friends. These are women with whom I can be me. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I am not. I can be honest and trust that they will not condemn. I consider each of them to be a gift from God. The fact that my inner circle isn’t huge is okay with me. Jesus himself had a close group of disciples and within the twelve, there were three who shared a closeness that the other nine did not have privilege to.
I do believe there is a fourth group of people. This group includes those who are more than acquaintances but not people I have known long enough to trust with the real me. These people see only that which I allow them to see. Yes, I may admit I am having a bad day or that something is wrong, but they don’t get my heart. I am thankful for these people as well for I believe at any given time, any of them could be a friend like my childhood friends.
Friends, both old and new, are a gift from God. I know I would not have made it through some of my darkest hours without the sacrificial love of some true friends. And while it hurts to lose someone you care about and thought cared about you as well, it may be God’s way of saying, “Move on. I have something better for you.” Looking back, I realize that some of those old friends were toxic to my thoughts and spiritual growth, even though all were believers as well. A weed will kill a healthy plant if left alone to grow. God knows when a friendship has turned toxic and He assures the growth of His children by removing that toxic weed before it kills.