“When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”
― Henri Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey
Have you ever considered out of the many people you have called friend, even those about whom you genuinely care, how few are the deep and true friends who will go through a crisis with you, stand by you through thick and thin? It is in testing times that we discover the difference between “deep” friends and those more casual friends, those fellow sojourners who have shared our life path for a season.
Now, that is not to say that we don’t need companionship and the chance to share activities and interests. We do. We lighten each other’s load simply by walking together. And some of those connections can be very intense for a time.
I even believe that those whose relationship with us wanes, those who drift into and then out of our lives, have an important place, some gift to leave with us. All types of friends matter to the quality of our lives, and we should treasure each of them.
But in the testing times, some of those fellow sojourners step forward and create a deeper bond, one that is usually unbreakable. Those people are fewer and farther between. These deeper friends are rare. They are the pearl of inestimable price.
In my life, I have often been surprised at who steps up and who steps back in times of trial. I can think of people I went to school with or worked with, those I’ve routinely done things with, even spent days with, gone to church with, enjoyed life with, sharing laughs or hours of fun, who did not have the connection with me that I thought we had. I misperceived our relationship. Sometimes that was demonstrated when they or their family hit a life crisis, or when I or one of my family members did. And they were gone.
I don’t know about you, but for me, this has sometimes made me scratch my head in surprise, and at other times, the times of greater surprise, has brought me pain.
“I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship,” Jon Katz says, “it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.” And powerful stuff can be scary stuff. It can take commitment and energy that someone may not be prepared for, or that they are unable to give at the time.
But when it does happen, when the glue sticks, when we or they stand up to the challenge, it makes a profound impact, and it can make all the difference.
Dean Koontz, in Fear Nothing, said it this way, “Friends are all we have to get us through this life–and they are the only things from this world that we could hope to see in the next.” To that I say a resounding, YES! Perhaps the best way to describe this level of friendship is ‘soul friends’, those whose connection is deep enough it reaches our spirit.
I am a dog person, more specifically, a German Shepherd person. For years I had a poster on the door to our basement that showed a koala bear clinging to the back of a German Shepherd who looked exactly like Heidi, our dog at the time. The caption read, “Hold on to a True Friend with Both Hands.” I try to live by that. (And meaning no less value to my non-furry friends, I think Heidi probably will be the first ‘person’ I see in heaven!)
Those of you reading this are all fellow sojourners with me. I value that deeply. Some of you are deeper friends, a part of my life’s richest treasure. Thanks to all of you for the gifts you have given me and for the meaning you have added to my life.