the lynchpin of deep, lasting friendship: commitment.

Think of your closest and oldest friend.

How is that you are still friends with that person after years and years of life changes, moves, babies, marriages, conflicts, sin, and intrusions?  Or maybe a better question is: do you have a friend with which you’ve experienced a range of life and disagreements and have still maintained an uncommonly close bond?  If not, why not?

I think the reason we don’t experience deep and lasting friendships is absence of commitment.  It’s like if you were simply shacking up with your husband instead of in a committed covenant.  It wouldn’t make for a very trusting relationship.  I think the same is true for friendship.  And yes, it matters what that commitment’s foundation is: namely Christ and the cross.

Real friendship cannot begin until the question of commitment is settled.  If you’re not sure I’m committed to you and our friendship, no matter what you may do or have done, then you’ll never risk the kind of sharing and loving and living life together that reveals who you are with me. (I’m not suggesting friendship with no conditions, but as few as possible Biblically).

I think this is what stunts our friendships in the body of Christ at the more shallow levels (especially at large churches).  We end up with 100 friends all of whom have seen the best of us, none of whom really know us.

True friendship is hindered when we can’t be certain that we won’t be dropped for another friend who’s a little more charismatic, witty, and enjoyable.

Because if you really knew me, you’d know I’m boring 75% of the time.  And unless you’re committed to me, you’re not going to hang out at my house all day when my dull personality is on display.

Unless you’ve decided your love for me is constant, you won’t endure the conflicts that happen; or the times of sorrow; or the moments of drama.  You won’t care enough to point me to Christ in my sin.  You’ll trade it in for the next new shiny friendship that comes along with all it’s start-up excitement and fun.

And if I’m not committed to you, I’ll shut-down the moment I think you’ve drifted away.  I’ll quit caring and quit pursuing.  I’ll decide it’s not worth the trouble and look for friendship elsewhere.  I won’t invite you over, because I’ll think you’re the kind of friend who needs my “A” game to enjoy time together, when all I’ve got today is a sub-par “C” game.

I think of David and Jonathan whose friendship was a soul-uniting commitment unparalleled in the Bible.  I think of Ruth whose commitment to Naomi and her God made her a direct ancestor to Jesus!  What freedom from fear there is in commitment!

Being a part of the body of Christ is an amazingly high calling.  It’s so high it baffles me.  And to think that we are to be committed to the body in such a life-altering way is overwhelming.  But what freedom there is in a commitment based on Christ and the Cross!!!  Commitment means whether near or far, the love and relationship remains, because it’s based on something bigger than location.

It means I’m called to love and live life with those God puts directly in my path.  It means I can lovingly say goodbye to those people when they move far away.  It means we never have to form cliques.  It means we can embrace new friendships, because they don’t threaten the old ones.

Paradoxically, commitment based on the cross means we’re more willing to let go of people.  We hold onto them loosely, knowing that we are bound in Christ forever.  The very commitment that knits our lives together in Christ, also allows that knitting together to be disrupted for the sake of Christ, trusting that we are one in Him for eternity.

I’m thanking God for the friends He’s given me that are committed to our friendship.  Not a commitment based on my worth, but on Christ’s.

One more thing: Check out a insightful post about friendship and indebtedness by Andy.

on saying the right thing

I’ve noticed that there is definite protocol on what to say and what not to say when someone has experienced loss.

I’m not sure anyone knows exactly what the protocol is, but it’s out there, eluding people, nonetheless.

My mom said a funny thing to me the other day.  She said, “I feel badly.  I went and looked up some resources on comforting people dealing with miscarriage and realized that I’ve already said three of the things you’re not supposed to say.”

I chuckled a little and said, “Really?  I hadn’t noticed.”  And it’s true.  I hadn’t.

Two opposite realities have emerged as I listen to people talk to me, trying to provide some comfort and consolation:

1) If they really love me (or you), they can’t say the wrong thing.  All the remarks that may not be perfect melt away when I see the true care they have for me in the Lord.  Some friends seem to have a window into your soul, while others struggle to understand, but either way, their love covers it all.

2) Everything everyone says feels, in some sense, like the wrong thing, because it feels like there is only one “right” thing and that would be to tell me that none of this happened and my little one is still alive and growing in my tummy.

So, on the one hand, no one can say the right thing, because no one can tell me it was all a bad dream.  And on the other hand anyone can say the right thing, if they’re motivated by genuine love.

I don’t want to negate the fact that some very insensitive things are said to people during their time of grief.  I’m not immune to this and I think it’s good to have some “don’t say” lists to de-hallmark-ize and de-trivialize the things people get in the habit of saying.

But, on the other hand, people get paralyzed when they’re made to feel that no one can or should speak into another’s loss.

All this to say that if it comes down to a choice between avoiding and saying nothing versus taking a risk and saying the less-than-perfect thing, I vote for the latter.

I’d rather have someone who really loves me step up and say something, than look at me uncomfortably from a distance and feel that avoidance is a must because they don’t want to say the wrong thing.  Even when I’m emotionally exhausted and want to be left alone, the person who speaks to me out of their love for the Lord and for me can never be faulted.

And who knows but that the Lord might use those words or the remembrance of their care at a later time to minister to my soul.

So my encouragement to you, dear reader, is to be the body of Christ to your grieving friends: be His arms around them and His soothing voice comforting them.  And if you’re the one hurting, let them do that for you, even if it isn’t how you would have scripted it.  That’s what I’m aiming for, very imperfectly, as I walk in this valley.