According to Facebook, I have a couple hundred “friends.” I don’t want to offend anyone by saying this, but in all honesty, most of us are what would more accurately be called “acquaintances.” It’s not that I don’t like or appreciate everyone who reads my Facebook feed, it’s just that we are probably not truly as close as a real friend would be. (I’ll let you all figure out where you are in that… If you reach out to me for a clear decision…well, be careful what you wish for!)
When I was a teenager I had a good number of people I would call friends, but after going to college, starting work, starting family, and buying a home, I found myself having a little less time for friends, and before long, that time turned out to be enough because I found myself pretty much having no friends! Life just got hectic, and there was not time for hanging out and talking. Most of what happened was a simple, “Hey! How have you been?” when we would run into each other at the mall, the store, or that great annual Kalkaska attraction, the Trout Festival.
Before too long, I had developed a pretty thick skin regarding friends. I had been burned by some, I probably had burned others myself, and the ability to let people in close to me had pretty much evaporated. I decided that I only needed my wife and my kids, and I would be just fine. I lived that way for about 10 years. There were people I would enjoy hanging out with from time to time, but I kept them at arm’s length. It felt safer that way.
Around 2010, I started attending a Men’s Group on how to be a better all around man for God. In that group I met a guy that God had apparently been hanging on to for me, and we hit it off really well. It was almost like we had known each other for years, and conversation flowed freely and smoothly between us. For the first time in my life, I believe I had found a true friend.
Ray and I have spent a lot of time talking over the last few years. We have laughed together and we have cried together. We have challenged each other, and we have picked each other up. We have shared weaknesses, sought accountability, and we have even had to lovingly encourage each other. (Read that as “thump one another about the head and shoulders”) It was a good friendship, and it has been a growing friendship.
A by-product of this friendship with Ray was a new awareness of the need that God had put into my heart to both have friends and to be a friend. Before too long I started reaching out to some other guys to try and rebuild this ability to be a friend, and God blessed it. God brought some other men into my life that became better than “acquaintances” to me, but I wasn’t sure if I would call them “friends” just yet. I still felt a little untrusting, like I needed to hold my cards a little close to the chest and be careful.
Then back in early 2013, I met this guy named Joe Castaneda, and we started to get to know each other a little bit at a time. We didn’t live in the same town, and only had real contact through Lake Ann Camp, but we developed an easy friendship that I enjoyed. Joe worked at the camp at that time, and while I had not had the opportunity to hear him speak, I had heard a lot of good things.
So, last year I was at Lake Ann with a group of teens for Freezeout, and Joe was the speaker. I was just sitting there, doing the crowd control thing, and not really thinking too much about “getting anything” from the message (sorry, Joe!), but I was paying attention. About halfway through the message Joe hit on a point for the teens as he was talking about being a good friend. He asked the question:
I felt like I had been between the eyes with an ax handle. (I have been hit in the head with a shovel handle, so I can speak to the relative feeling this phrase describes, but that is another story…) What was I doing for the men I called “Friend?” Other than standing around the church talking to them it was pretty much nothing. Joe then challenged us to do something to bless the friends in our lives spiritually.
Well, I sat there and thought about it, and decided that I would start something new. I identified 5 men I would pray for on a daily basis, but I wanted to take it one step further. These were men I wanted to get to know better, and to really pray for God to work in their lives and help them to grow. So, I started praying, and Monday through Friday, I would send each of them a message, e-mail, or a phone call to let them know that I had been praying for them this week.
I’d like to say that I have not missed a day of praying or of contacting, but that wouldn’t be true. I’m human, and I have not always done this as well as I should. Some weeks I might be a bit short, like I am going through the motions. But I haven’t stopped. These guys are important to me. God put them on my heart for a reason, and I am praying that He will bless them.
As I have prayed for them, I have seen our relationships grow. We are busy, and schedules make it difficult to spend the time that we might want to spend talking about what is going on in our lives, but in praying for these guys I have been able to experience deeper, stronger friendships than I have ever had in my life. They are not as important to me as God or my family, (nor should they be) but they are very important to me, and we are knit together through the time we spend together as well as through the God we all serve.
We are told in the Bible that we have a need for good friends:
Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:12
They are there to lift us up when we fall, to watch our backs in troubled times. They are there to challenge us to bigger and better things. We need friends!
I knew I needed them, but it wasn’t until I grasped the truth of this verse that I actually found out why I didn’t have any:
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly -Proverbs 18:24a
It takes work on my part, and I had not been willing to do it. I was too caught up in myself to make the effort to get involved with others. It’s not that nobody wanted to be my friend, it was that I never wanted to really have one. An honest look at my values 7 years ago would not have put “having friends” in the top 5. Probably not even in the top 10. I’m thankful that things have changed, and that through a closer relationship with God I have been shown just how important they are.
Relentless Living requires us to put in the effort at making our relationships all that they can be. Whether it is our relationship with God, with our family, or with our friends, if we want to get anything good out of them, we need to be willing to put aside ourselves and do what is necessary to grow in those relationships. It’s a good thing!
I’m very thankful for the impact that Joe’s message has had on my life. That message that Joe brought to the teens was exactly what God knew I needed. I am so thankful of the impact that he has had on my kids through the camp ministry, and in my life as we have become good friends as well. I’d appreciate prayers for him as well. You can read more about what God is doing in his life and how he is responding to it by clicking here.
There is one Friend we need above all others, and that is Jesus Christ. If you don’t know Him as your Savior, I can promise you that you will never know just how good these other relationships can be. He makes them all the richer through the work that He did to save us from our sins. If you want to know more, please message or e-mail me. I would love to share His story with you.