You've Got A Friend in Me

This past week was emotionally taxing for many reasons, so I was very thankful when a friend texted to invite me over for a Saturday morning breakfast. He wanted to coordinate a time for a few guys to gather, pray, and read Scripture. As we caught up on life, relationships became a major theme: coworkers, significant others, friends, etc. How are we supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus when we feel tired, when we feel defeated, when we don’t know what’s next?

We then took time to read over Scripture separately. Before I began this exercise, I googled “Scripture dealing with reconciling relationships.” The search yielded many articles, listing out various Biblical narratives. One of these included Philippians 2:1-11. I figured this text might pop up, but I wasn’t familiar with the paraphrased version included.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
— Philippians 2:1-4 (MSG)

 

How do we get "deep-spirited friendship?"

I was most convicted by this directive to “be deep-spirited friends.” I so desperately long for that, but I’m not sure I’ve consistently allowed myself to pursue it, or allowed others to pursue it with me.

I’ve spent the afternoon thinking on this, and I’ve found myself reminded of a few things I’ve seen others practice/encourage:

PRAY

More and more, I’m finding that prayer should be the first step to everything in life. The Lord Himself wants to be a “deep-spirited friend," and he gives us a clear way to communicate with Him.

But, how should we pray?

I’ve recently been reminded of a great outline for prayer that can help us maintain focus throughout our time with God. It’s called “A.C.T.S.” This stands for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

How does this work in regards to friendship?

We can praise Him for knowing how we feel. We should confess the ways we’ve put ourselves above others or how we’ve treated others with disgust, judgement, and ill-will. We can thank Him for providing just what we need right when we need it by calling out specific people in our lives. And, we can ask that He make a way for us if/when we don’t feel like things are quite right.

TAKE INITIATIVE

This might be awkward because we don’t always know how someone is going to respond when we ask to get to know them or spend quality time together. However, it’s important to act on our convictions. There’s a risk involved, but there is also confidence, knowing that our ultimate identity is in Christ and not in our friendships.

If it’s met positively, that’s great. If it’s not, don’t lose heart. Acknowledge how it makes you feel, and go right back to prayer. “Deep-spirited friendship” takes time and work.

BE VULNERABLE

Once commonality is formed, vulnerability and trust should be the next step. I don’t feel like there can truly be anything “deep-spirited” about the bond unless there’s willingness to share all (or at least many) parts of life. Again, this takes time and work.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
— Galatians 6:2

More and more, I’ve found that I enjoy spending time with those who know every part of me and I them. They might not share all the same interests, but that’s okay. We challenge each other, and we acknowledge the need and thankfulness for this bond. 

WALK WITH OPEN HANDS

It can be really tempting to close fists and hang on to this friendship for dear life. If, however, we allow ourselves to idolize this friendship, we then start to replace some of the original directives or sources of it, mainly God as our Savior.

Additionally, while we long for real friendships (especially in a city like New York), we never know when someone might move or someone else might benefit from being welcomed into this “deep-spirited friendship.” We don’t have to pour out our soul to every person who passes us on the street, but we also shouldn't be so limiting. 

In the past, I’ve been characterized as a “nester,” meaning I’m someone who wants to know who my “crew” is and live life. I don’t mean to be exclusive; I just recognize the deep desire I have to know (and be known by) others. That being said, I’ve found a lot of freedom in acknowledging my tendencies, surrendering my fears, and striving ahead. I trust that the Lord sees me where I am and longs for me to fulfill His commandments among strong community.

Today, I’m grateful for slow, Saturday morning breakfast conversations and for the people who make a way for them to happen. Creating a space for us to wrestle with our mess and then give it to God in prayer is an incredible first step towards “deep-spirited friendship.”

I believe He wants the same for us all, so are we willing to leave our self-obsessed mindset at the Cross and pray for guidance to move ahead?