In a military community, we say hello and good bye to friends often. Even though saying goodbye is never fun, keeping in touch with old friends has never been easier, with email and Facebook, Skype and Facetime.
Making new friends, though, is a little harder. It’s hard because of a particular awkwardness in new friendships. Even if we have made a good start, we sometimes make quick judgements about each other and give up too soon when difficulties come. (“she’s obnoxious” or “all he likes to do is play video games” “not spiritual enough” “definitely not a kindred spirit”)
What’s needed is patience, persistence, and love. Building a friendship is not something that always happens instantaneously. Most often, we build it a little at a time, reaching out, learning something new, living life together. We see this process worked out many times in a church community.
In our family, in a lot of ways, we’re at that beginning awkward stage for several friendships. And sometimes we come home from an event and have kids discouraged (“there’s nobody like me”). As mom, I’ve been doing a lot of praying, a lot of looking for opportunities to share life with other godly kids, and a lot of pep talks not to give up on the people God has brought into our lives.
At the same time, we’ve also been talking about what it means to be a friend of God. I’ve been encouraging the kids to take the lessons they are learning about friends, and consider how they are working on their friendship with God.
I am glad the Bible uses friendship to describe Abraham’s relationship with God. (and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. James 2:23) Friendship helps us think about what it means to have a relationship with God, and know how to pursue him.
The Bible teaches that we are to pursue God, and we will spend our lifetimes doing so! ( Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8) We typically don’t build relationships in one large action, although big events can certainly get a friendship started. More typically, we build friendships a little at a time. This is true of our friendship with God. We reach out, and he reaches back. Repeat often.
There are lots of helpful parallels between our friendships and our relationship with God. Any other verses that come to your mind? There are lots of poems from King David, but here is one his best.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Several books also come to mind:
Haiku on My Shoe by Eileen Berry. A fantastic early reader with a theme of persistence in friendship and love. Few Christian books show Christianity lived out without seeming unnatural or preachy. This one is one of the best I have seen.
The Art of Neighboring by Pathak and Runyon. A short book on building friendships with neighbors. I really enjoyed this book and found it encouraging and challenging.
The Pursuit of God by Tozer. David and I are reading this together, and it’s been fun to discuss. Tozer speaks clearly about what it actually means to “seek God.”