The Modern Pilgrim’s Progress Part Four- In Which Pilgrim Finds Companions
“We’ll be friends forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet.
“Even longer,” said Pooh.
Truth, from a stuffed bear. I often forget that relationships with other Christ-followers will go “beyond infinity,” as Buzz Lightyear says. My attitude about relationships is too earth bound.
Too caught up in the relational struggles of the moment.
Too invested in temporal pleasures and concerns.
Too careless with lost people’s souls.
I forget that I’m building relationships that will last, as Pooh says, longer than forever. Whew! When I look at people that way, it makes me want to be more careful and prayerful about how I forge and maintain friendships. In part one of this piece on friendship, I discussed prayerfulness and authenticity, two foundational stones for meaningful relationships. I suggest going back and reading that previous post first, if you haven’t already.
Two more of my foundation stones of friendship came to mind as I pondered my history with friends. My list is not definitive. It’s just mine. Developed in the hard knock school of failed relationships. Forged in the fire of loneliness and poor choices. (For more ideas from wiser pilgrims, check out the list of recommended books at the end of the previous post.)
- Be realistic– no one can fill all your buckets except Jesus. Marriages fail because spouses expect each other to be everything. All the time. Friendships wane when we glom onto one person and expect them to be our everything. Or even two people that we count on exclusively. Jesus picked twelve. Twelve.
We’d all be better off if we stopped thinking, “more highly of ourselves than we ought,” (Romans 12:3) We need to recognize that everyone of us is a handful and it’s best to develop relationships with several folks. Let’s go back to Pooh Bear and consider the variety of his friends character qualties.
-For sheer joy? Tigger
-For faithfulness and earnestness? Piglet
-For a reality check? Eeyore
-For wisdom? Owl
-For thoughtfulness and planning? Rabbit
-For kindness and caring? Kanga and Roo
One day of Tigger’s energy is great but don’t try serious conversation with him. Piglet’s loyalty is solid, but his fears are many. Kanga is as kind as the day is long but probably won’t tell you the truth about yourself like Eeyore will. Get the idea?
God will open doors of friendship between us and a variety of other people with qualities God knows we need. What if Jesus’ only disciple was Peter? I’m seeing a wake of cut off ears behind them. Yet, Peter showed great faith in his best moments. Or, how about a circle of three with Jesus, James and John? Oh my. So much bickering over positions. So little time.
Few of us have too many quality, soul-level, in it to the end, friends. So, who are you overlooking as potential friends? How might you be frustrating your tiny tribe with all your expectations? Open eyes. Open hearts. Open hands. These are the channels God uses to position new people in your life.
- Be positioned– if you’re not in your God designed spot doing your God-ordained stuff, you’re going to miss some people. Peter turned up in the wrong place. Moping by a campfire instead of praying. Where was he supposed to be? I’m not sure but I’m certain it wasn’t in that spot, denying he knew Jesus. King Saul turned up in the wrong place too. I’m positive God wanted him somewhere other than a witch’s doorstep asking her to call up the ghost of Samuel.
As a positive example, although Jacob started in a wrong place, covered with animal fur and lying to his father, he met his beloved Rachel, by being in his God-ordained place later. Each of the twelve disciples left life as they knew it to follow and obey Christ. Look at the adventures they experienced and the deep friendships they formed. And how about sweet Ruth? She obeyed all her God nudges, positioned herself rightly, and went from poor widow to beloved, wealthy wife.
Friendships are important. Being about the business of God’s kingdom, is more important. Ruth didn’t go out to glean in the fields because that’s where she thought she’d find a husband. She simply did the work God called her to do in that moment. Should I expect God to drop friends into my life when I’m not doing the same?
If Ruth never worked the fields and instead sat home, simply hoping Boaz might notice and provide for relatives, I think the story ends differently. Boaz felt an attraction to her hardworking, humble spirit, which he observed as she worked. Godly, obedient people are naturally attracted to other godly, obedient folk.
Position yourself in places of obedience and faithfulness. This is where God often connects us with some soul mates.
Friendships can be, as Dickens said, “the best of times and the worst of times.” Jesus’s friends failed him repeatedly. He still invested in those relationships. Even Judas. At the beginning of a new year, this is a good time to review your friendships. Do you need to let go of some people that drag down instead of building up? Are you engaged in your God-given work? Is there a potential friend you’ve overlooked because they are different from you? Are you praying about your friendships? What action will you take today?