She was watching me, that older daughter of mine. She was watching me as I enjoyed being with some longtime friends. One day on the telephone, she observed: "Dad, you are so relaxed when you are with those people. You laugh and seem so comfortable." She reminded me of how important and special good friends are in life.
There is no substitute for friendship. There is no substitute for having and being a friend. Consider these words from Proverbs:
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Prov. 17:17).
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Prov. 27:6).
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel (Prov. 27:9).
I am very thankful for friends. Some friends are closer than others. Some live nearby. Some live farther away. Friends come in all shapes and sizes. Not all friendships look the same. Sometimes that has to do with the time and season of life that you may be in.
How important is a friend? The best answer I can give to this question is: "VERY." A real friend can be hard to come by. Better hold on to the ones you have. Sometimes I am amazed at people who will discard friends. You probably know people like this. They don’t return telephone calls. They rarely if ever initiate. They communicate to their friends in many subtle ways: "You are not important to me."
I was thinking recently about several kinds of friends who are important to me.
Friends who walk ahead of me. I am thankful for men and women who have walked ahead of me in life and from whom I have learned. To this day, there are a few guys who are older than I am who I will have lunch with occasionally, just to stay in touch. In some way I have been blessed by their friendships. I continue to learn from them and so often receive encouragement from them.
Friends who walk with me. I’m thankful for these people. Sometimes these people are nearby. They are a part of the particular time and place where we are living. That is important. However, there are those friendships that continue on through the years even though you might be in different locations and not see one another that often. I am thinking of two friends who have been very important to me regardless of where we have lived.
These are people who are present. They call. They e-mail. They have a way of showing up. They encourage. They raise good questions. They express concern. They have been invited into my life and their contribution is significant. Simply having a friend with whom I share stories, along with a good laugh, is so important to me.
Friends who are walking behind me. I am thinking of a few people in my life who are friends even though they are much younger than I am. Am I ever thankful for these people! I may be ahead of them in terms of age and life experiences (for instance, we no longer have small children in our house), yet these people add a fresh dimension to my life in a number of ways.
Monday evening, I was in the Dallas area and had dinner with two very fine people with whom I went to high school. I had not seen them in decades. We had reconnected by e-mail. So while I was in Dallas on Monday, I had dinner with this wonderful couple. After dinner as we were walking to our cars, I told them how much I appreciated them meeting me and that it meant a lot to me.
Why was this important to me? I think, in part, it was because we have a common memory of a significant time in my life. We have similar memories of people, places, and events during our high school years.
More and more I find myself thankful for people who in some way have helped shape my life through their friendship. What has been your experience?