Tuesday, May 19, 2020


Think about your friends for a minute. Think about those persons you choose to hang around with, the ones you invite to your bonfires, the ones you exchange messages with all day. You got 'em? Okay. Here's the question:

Why are these your friends?

It seems like a strange question. They are our friends because our lives crossed paths at some meaningful point, and we latched onto them as fellow travelers in our journeys. They are our friends because we share some common interest somewhere, something that we like to do together. They are our friends because they run on the same circuits that we do and we can't get away from them, so might as well get close with them. We have all kinds of verbage to talk about our friends, how we came to know them, why we came together in the way that we did.

Ask us about our friends and why we like them, and we will tell you something about them. Oh, I just love her laugh. She is always having so much fun and really knows how to just enjoy life. Oh, he's got a great heart for God and a deep passion for helping others. She loves studying the Bible and always seems to learn something from it. He likes dogs just as much as I do. And on and on and on the list goes, always saying something about who our friends are.

Now, here's the spoiler: you don't have a single friend that you like because of who they are. Not really.

All these things that we say about our friends are part of the reason we like them, part of the reason we are friends with them. But the deeper truth is that we are friends with these persons because of who they enable us to be. We are friends with them because they affirm, encourage, or elicit something in us that we want to be, something that we want to like about ourselves.

That fun friend? We want to be fun like her. We want to live the kind of life she lives. Being friends with her gives us permission to laugh just as loudly, to have fun, to kick back and just enjoy things. That devoted friend? He encourages us to stay committed in our own faith. He affirms for us the practice of sacrifice and service. That friend who reads the Bible and actually understands it? She reminds us that God is speaking to us, too. That there's always a good word out there if we're willing to invest in it. That friend who loves dogs? He makes us feel not so weird about loving them ourselves. If we like him and he loves dogs, then others can like us while we love dogs.

It's simple. We choose our friends not for who they are, but for who they encourage and affirm us to be. We like them not because they are likable, but because they help us to like ourselves. They make us more of who we desire to be. We are naturally drawn to them because they make us better; they invite us (and challenge) us to be the best version of ourselves.

Before you think this all sounds self-centered, relax. It is, but it's not. And it has a dark side (we'll get to that tomorrow). It's self-centered because we choose our friends essentially from a mirror, but it's not self-centered because there's something fundamentally good about it.

Remember in the beginning that Adam was alone. He was perfect. He was sinless. He was righteous. But he was alone, and God said outright, "It is not good for man to be alone." Alone, we just are who we are. We are whoever we decide to be in a given moment. There's no standard, no guide, no affirmation, no encouragement, no rebuke. There's nothing to hold us to ourselves.

Together, though, we are accountable. Adam is no longer Adam just because he is Adam; now, he is Adam because Eve needs him to be. Eve has an expectation of who Adam is, and Adam sees himself through Eve's eyes. She encourages, affirms, and elicits from Adam the best version of himself. He is the man he wants to be because he sees that man reflected in Eve, and she makes him better. (He makes her better, too.)

God made us this way. It's why He made more than one human being, right from the very beginning. It's about accountability. It's about encouragement. It's about affirmation. It's about seeing in you who I want to be, and just seeing that gives me permission to become it. If I want to be 'fun' and you are 'fun' and you see me as 'fun' and you give me permission to be 'fun,' then I will be more fun when I am with you. If I want to be more self-sacrificial and you are self-sacrificial and you see me as self-sacrificial and you encourage me to be more self-sacrificial, then I will be more self-sacrificial when I am with you.

And I will love you for it.

And we will be friends.

Yes, because I love who you are. Absolutely. But on a deeper level, because I love who you inspire and enable me to be. You make me better. That's why you're my friend. (And I hope I make you better, too. I hope that's why I'm your friend.)

Like I said, there's an odd dark side to all of this, but you have to understand the foundations of friendship before we go there. So take a day to let this sink in, this 'better together' and 'no good to be alone' that God has woven into us, and we'll flip it a little tomorrow and look at why this is also so troubling. 

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this very much. My mind went to the dark - which maybe I can comment on after tomorrow.