I’ll never forget one of the key conversations that started transforming my mind to start thinking differently about friendships.
I was sitting outside the Student Union Building with my friends Taelor and Jean, both sisters whom love Jesus dearly and were always kicking my sorry butt about stuff I did.
While our conversation was in essence about a girl I was interested at the time, it revolutionized my thinking about friendships and what I value in people.
Taelor quipped, “So, tell me why you are interested in her?”
I answered, “Well, she’s going overseas to go to a Bible school and go on a mission trip. That’s pretty cool. She’s funny. We get along pretty well. She likes the same stuff in Portland…and she’s from Portland so that’s all good!”
Taelor quipped again, “No, I want to knowthe deeper things.”
I had no answer…and Taelor knew I wouldn’t. She told me to get back to her when I could…and I never was able to. In fact, she made me realize that past being an extremely attractive girl who loves Jesus, there wasn’t much knowledge or basis for me to be interested in aforementioned girl.
At this point in my life, I had spent nearly two years living in a dorm. By God’s grace, I was blessed to be involved with the Mosaic community of South Horton, where a lot of my authentic and deep-rooted friendships have come from. Some of my best friends – brothers – who keep me accountable, challenge me, rebuke me, love on me, all hail from Mosaic.
But there was a false dichotomy growing in my mind between what a real community looks like and what a shallow community looks like.
In a nutshell:
1. Real community mirrors and reflects the image of Jesus, His life and testimony, and the gospel message of the cross.
2. Real community and real friendships meant understanding that I can’t have 50. Jesus had three close friends and a lot of relationships.
3. Real community means knowing people at a deep level where you can pray, love, rebuke, challenge, uphold, weep with, and walk both the valleys and mountain tops with.
Just like dating doesn’t start with “we” or “me” but “Jesus” so does community. So with that, let’s continue.
We can’t have 50 best friends. If you look at Jesus and His life, He keeps three friends close to his vest: Peter, James, and John. Three specific scriptural instances show that He brought these disciples along for special purposes, training, and bonding: the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:35-43), the Transfiguration (Matthew 17), and the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). Jesus was both a teacher and brother to them. We need to do both these roles with our friends. He rebuked them (Matthew 16:23) and counted on them to pray for Him in the garden before He was given up. Of course, by God’s grace, we won’t fail and fall asleep when our friends ask us to do the same.
We need to understand inner circle friendships, outer circle friendships, and floater relationships. Based on Jesus and His inner circle, it’s important to look at some of His important outer circle friendships and understand the difference. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are three people Jesus sacrificed for – albeit it not on a daily basis. However, He had an active presence in their life, came to them in a time of need (Lazarus, John 11), and provided, taught, and challenged them (Luke 10:38-42).
Who are your inner circle friends? I have 5 guys in my Biola community who I can tangibly sacrifice for. After Jesus, they are my family. If they are sick, in need of a ride, need a meal covered, need a favor done; I will bend over backwards to do it. If they needed a kidney, I would give it. This is at all costs. If they were being hurt or harassed, I would do everything in my power to defend them, by God’s grace, even at the cost of my life. That’s what love is. I don’t say this to brag or put myself up on a grand stage, I simply say this because this is exactly what Jesus did and we are called to model our lives after Him.
Next, who are your outer circle friends? My outer circle is mixed with men and women who I do my best to sacrifice for. I can’t always promise them I will be at everything they invite me to, I can’t always drop everything on my plate to rush to their side, but I will cut back as much as possible to make time for them, because I care and love them. It sounds harsh, but it’s simply realistic. You only have so much emotional investments available to cash in on. Psychologically, sociologically, and physically, you can only be in so many places at so many times, and you can only have your heart and soul with so many people, at so many times. If you stretch yourself too thin – which I used to be guilty of, all the time – you have to sacrifice something…and it usually ends up to be your relationship with Jesus.
It’s important to realize that you can’t touch base with everyone. This is what I call floater friends. Floater friends are people you have open relationships with, who you would love to sit down and chat with, but your worlds never collide often enough to do so. I have the perfect example of this. I have two friends, both people I spent considerable amounts of time with freshman year here at Biola. Recently, I’ve run into them quite a bit and they’ve asked to hang out. It’s awful, but it just isn’t always plausible. We all put in 40-70 hour weeks as college students (some more productive hours than others, but I digress…). However, both have made a concentrated effort to get together, and so because I found (and they found) an agreeable time in the next week, we’re shooting to get together. These friends are people I still care about – as we’re called to – but I won’t be able to sacrifice for as much as I would like. I certainly spend time praying for them when I hear they are in need, I do my best to provide aid when I can, but realistically, I had to see I can’t act like I can carry every detail about them on my shoulders, just as they can’t carry mine.
We need to know our friends at a deeper level than their Facebook info, their major and hometown, and what time they can meet at the Café for dinner. I wrote this in my last post, but if you can’t tell me your “best friends” deepest struggles because you don’t know them, then they aren’t your best friends. Just because you go to the Café with them every Sunday, hit up the new Navy Seal movie premier with them on a Thursday, go to Disneyland with them and pray with them a few times a week, doesn’t mean you’re best friends. It can but often times it doesn’t. This is especially true of guys. Stop spending so much shoulder-to-shoulder time and do the awkward thing of having face-to-face time. Girls, learn that face-to-face time is wonderful, but so is going to the movies or shopping and goofing around. We need balance.
Know which one of your inner and outer circle friends struggles with porn, has an eating disorder, has been a sexual assault victim in the past – or present, wrestling with homosexuality, drugs, or alcohol abuse, doesn’t talk to their parents, has daddy issues, has mama boy syndrome, plays too many video games, gossips about their friends, etc. If you don’t know this about them, and they don’t know your deepest darkest secrets, and they are your best friends you need to realize you have issues to resolve. If you’re hiding these problems from them or hiding from their problems, more than likely you’re also hiding from God and hiding from the things He is calling you to.
If you do know these things, you know how to pray, provide, rebuke, pursue, and love them better.
So, what should you do?
Pray, seek, and write out your friend groups. Divide them into inner and outer circles. Know your limitations and commitments.
Get together with your friends, one by one. Find out how you can love and pursue them deeper. For guys, this will be awkward and miserable. For girls, you have to make sure they don’t give you a shallow and Christianese response. Dig deeper!
Never dispose of your friends at sacrifice for your career, success, or ministry. I will post a more detailed blog about this and other leadership ideas soon. One of the sweetest things God has created is to be in community. Never sacrifice it.
Find a church, be trained, raised up, and pursued and loved deeper! This will be a reoccurring theme in my blog posts. Find a church full of people, races, and perspectives that differ from yours – except the theology of course. Get involved in ministries, community or home groups, and find a mentor. It’s awkward at first, but totally worth it. For more, refer to the previous blog.
My plea and prayer is this: that by God’s grace, you will desire to love and pursue your friends deeper because Jesus loves and pursues you deeply, that you won’t hide from your friends or our God, and that we will carry the burdens of each other as the church are called to.
I have been rightfully accused of being the exact person I just spent time to write about. I’ll admit that. I was a terrible and shallow friend, flaky at best, and never to be counted on. By God’s grace, I believe I have been smacked in the face enough to learn I had burned enough bridges. I lost some friends, some friends pulled me a long, and all together, my relationship with Christ has been changed forever. I desire this for you.
I’m not an expert in anything I’m writing about, simply a sinful person who has been redeemed and is constantly being sanctified by Christ’s love, mercy, and grace, and have a deep desire for you to experience the same thing.