A friend who loves at all times?
I believe there’s only one man who knew the way to love. He walked the earth many years ago, leaving gifts of selflessness, wonder, grace, and mercy in his wake. With outstretched arms, Jesus proved love is the gift that keeps on giving—even if your closest friends deny your existence, betray you, or walk away when you need them most. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends ~ John 15:13 (ESV) This man, Jesus, demonstrated such vivid unconditional love for a wretch like me. He called us friends ~ till no end.
~ However, for the rest of us, loving or accepting each other at all times is definitely easier said than done. ~
Stuff three or four girls into a stifling car bound for a day of fun and tell me if buckle your seatbelts doesn’t take on a whole new meaning. A summer afternoon outing, lunch, and shopping can turn into a scene from the Weather Channel. Winds howl. Storm clouds gather. A sunny day can turn ugly gray with a few unwise words. We’re individuals. No two souls are alike. I’m the laidback free-spirit who ticks everyone off because I dislike adhering to a rigid schedule when I’m on retreat or vacation. After all, life is short. Why get so uptight about the small stuff? What if I’m the one who’s tired of racing around every day?
Acceptance is key
So I guess I manage to give structure-loving friends something extra to chat about while they wait. After all, it’s been said many times and many ways: Acceptance is key to all relationships. No matter what type of storm comes our way, and even when seasons change. We’ll be friends till no end. Right?
All I anticipate is laughter, tastes of an adventurous meal, a few fabulous finds, and most of all—the celebration of each chapter in our lives. These friendships are priceless.
So, how unconditional is unconditional love?
Most of us like to think we’re the kind of friend who loves others unconditionally— but then, one by one, all our flaws show up unannounced. For some ladies, that means God forbid one friend in the group favored someone else more than them. If looks could kill, we’d all be dead.
Being a quirky creative has left me doing a balancing act of sorts with my two personalities. There are times when I’m a total extrovert. Like you, I juggle family, my day job, writing, and a million other things on my “To Do” list. I’ve managed to con many people into thinking I like doing this. The only thing is, somewhere along the way, the happy-go-lucky garden party girl slipped behind the scenes—or vanished altogether.
~ How did this uptight perfectionist who resembles my mother replace the fun-loving free spirit I used to call me? I miss her. ~
Friendship and love
I’ve often wondered about the dynamics of friendship and love. The many similarities intrigue me. Here’s a look at one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Scholars call it the love chapter.
Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Now read the same verses as if they were written about friendship:
Friends are patient. Friends are kind. Friends do not envy, keep no number of wrongs, and never boast. Friends don’t puff themselves up. They encourage one another and keep no record of wrongs.
When perfect is anything but real
What if loved ones and friends don’t conform to what we think the perfect friend should be? Might we actually enjoy the unique essence of the people God wanted us—and them to be?
A sweet friendship refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27:9
At some point in our lives, most of us will say we’ve lost a loved one or a friend—or several from either category. The initial shock after answering a phone call, text, or Facebook post grips our hearts and sends waves of sorrow through our bodies. It’s beyond terrible.
Journey to no end
While the bible compares our existence here on earth to a vapor in the wind, I never spent much time pondering the thought. Here today. Gone tomorrow? For now, I’d rather hike a mountain trail, sail on uncharted waters, or zipline over a remote rainforest or canyon. I’ll say it’s preparation for my journey to no end. AKA heaven.
With the sweltering days of summer upon us, I’m reminded, storm season draws nearer. I remember past hurricanes, tornados, and floods. My mind draws comparisons to life’s trials and storms. Natural disasters might leave paths of devastation that resemble warzones. Acres of hundred-year-old majestic Oaks resemble bent or broken pitchforks. Cedars, like snapped toothpicks. Recovery can take decades.
Like a severe windstorm event, life’s tragedies can leave us feeling broken, naked, and alone. Losing loved ones and friends leave ugly scars on our hearts, but not our souls. Living life and choosing to reach for joy with every fiber of my being comes from a hope that surpasses all my understanding. This hope comes from my God, the Giver of Days—through His son, Jesus. This gift, He freely gives to all who receive it.
Strength for tomorrow
I believe there is beauty and hope and joy after such storms. I remember how the word, goodbye left me with physical pain similar to a sucker punch in the stomach. My gut wrenched. Large and small intestines must have twisted in knots when I said my last goodbye to my father, and then my mother, and oldest sister, or when a beautiful friend didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to her son, or after another friend took his own life last week. My husband and I never saw it coming, neither did the four hundred people at his funeral. How is it this brilliant man didn’t know we all loved him?
In late May, I left two terminally ill friends and my twelve-year-old Golden Retriever Selah, for a much needed mountaintop experience at the #BRMCWC in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Once back in Florida, the scorching heat and the reality of the avalanche about to hit, left me dry. It’s almost as if my spirit sensed the awful weeks that would follow might suck the precious breath from my lungs. I’m humbled and thankful God gave me rest and respite before the storm hit.
When in serious flight mode, I searched for reasons to escape. Again. I thought, maybe if I close my eyes I’ll hear the calls of wild birds that nest near my cabin. The rev of jet skis, boat engines, and small planes will soothe my anxious mind.Without a doubt, my mountain retreat called my name—but family, friends, and deadlines and clients and opportunities to shine or receive rejections awaited my immediate attention.
Times like these
It’s times like these when I don’t want to do anything except sit on my porch and stare at the lake or stars. Whenever I can’t run too far away, I still pray…and settle for a ride to the beach. Something therapeutic happens when I sink my toes into white sand, listen to the gulls’ squawk, and the crash of each wave—Although, sometimes I stay home, curl up on the couch, and eat a bowl of my mom’s veggie soup. Her recipe always soothes my weary soul.
Though I hate the word, hate, I can’t think of a better word to describe my disdain for so much sadness. Everyone who knows me knows disdain doesn’t fit my personality. Neither does the other word. Happy is a much better word with endless possibilities—and probable parties. It fits. Or today, when I balled with overwhelming sadness as I looked into my Weimaraner Stormie’s sad eyes, because I know she’s sad too. Her sissy, our Golden Retriever, Selah, passed June 7th. My emotions are raw. I look in the mirror and see a teary-eyed mess who doesn’t resemble the giggly girl I used to know.
The pain is new. Or, is it becoming all too familiar? I’m numb. The realization. Life is a gift but doesn’t come in a box with a sticker on top, that reads: Fragile. Handle with care.
The reality of fate or faith
Faith is unlike fate or destiny or Karma. It’s an unwavering belief in what is not seen. This takes more than a leap to trust with blind abandon. The thought of total assurance of a Father in heaven who loves us so much more than the best earthly father ever could might overwhelm the most faithful believer. When I think of how my Heavenly Father’s gift of abundant life came from sacrifice, I’m reminded of how God The Father led by example from day one.
Lord, please help me be mindful of how you’ve equipped me to be a faithful friend. Help me stay. Don’t let me run away from painful situations. Hold my hand…
He promised us friendship, unconditional love, and abundant life—if we believe, and endure in His way. We expect abundance and think joy is the absence of sorrow. God endured the Fall of man and angels, and the death of His son who became flesh and bone and blood—only to carry my (and your) sins to a terrible cross . . . all this, so we could live as friends till no end. You may ask, “Is this what grace looks like? How can it be so ugly?”
My answer will never waver. Grace, like joy, is not the absence of sorrow. It’s the gift of unending tomorrows.
Has a friend or loved one ever let you down? Have you ever thought about the similarities of Biblical love and friendship? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this subject. ~ JC
*Feature photo by jarmoluk on Pixabay