It was third grade. I envied her thick, blonde hair that naturally curled under in all the right places. Her smile was bright, and her personality drew me like Starbucks on a stressful day. She was quiet when I was loud. She was organized when I was messy. She was always behaved, and I stayed in trouble. She and I had been friends the year before, but an event would soon take our friendship to an entirely new level.
It was the beginning of the school year. Having been to Germany over the summer, my friend wore an authentic German dress that made her look exactly like Shirley Temple in the movie Heidi. It was beautiful. I had admired it all day.
Lunch time approached and we both sat down next to each other with our sea-foam green divided plastic plates. I don’t remember what we were eating, but I do know there was a mustard packet involved. For a reason I cannot explain, I decided to place said mustard packet onto the table, and then proceeded to slam my fist down onto the packet. Feel free to gasp. You know what happened next.
Feelings of horror shot down my spine. You guessed it. Mustard—meet Authentic German Dress. The introduction was not pleasant. To this day, I still see the entire event in slow motion. I thought for sure our short friendship was over. The end. El Fin. Time to switch lunch tables—forever. Fortunately, I was wrong. It’s amazing what a little Tide and forgiveness can do between friends. Almost thirty years later, she remains a champion in my life.
Of all the relationships God could have ever created, I believe the most powerful, most influential, most meaningful is the relationship of friend. Think for a moment. Parents work endlessly to raise their children in the hopes of one day being calling them friend. A husband and wife who are not friends are missing a dynamic piece of their relationship. Siblings that manage to find friendship are blessed beyond measure. Yes. Friendship. This is amongst God’s greatest gifts to mankind.
We all have friends in our lives that meet different needs. There are the friends we can sink down into and find comfort that reminds us of our mother’s arms. There are the friends we sprint to in crisis. There are the friends who define loyalty and hesitation isn’t a word they understand. There are the friends who show up at our door with pajamas on and Starbucks in hand. There are the friends ready to fight in our stead before we even know there’s a battle brewing. There are the friends who know us—really know us and accept in us what we ourselves can’t even begin to face.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself, what kind of friend am I? The poet Khalil Gibran once said, “Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, not an opportunity.” Yep. The truth of the statement stings a little. Well, maybe a lot…How often have I looked at a friendship for the way I benefited from the relationship? The way a friend provides me comfort. Or maybe it’s the security. Ashamedly, sometimes it’s for networking and contacts. When my view of friendship is egocentric, it grieves the Holy Spirit.
In this life, God has called us to serve one another first. I don’t know of a single verse in the bible which lays out how we first serve ourselves and then others. When it comes to the idea of service and friendship, I have always been drawn to the story of Ruth in the Bible. At the loss of her husband and also father-in-law, Ruth was under no legal obligation to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi. In fact, she could have stayed in her homeland, gone back to her family, and remarried a native Moabite. Instead, she left everything and everyone she knew for Naomi, following her mother-in-law back to Israel.
In the midst of great personal tragedy, Ruth was willing to give of herself completely. You see, Ruth was outwardly focused. She looked at Naomi as a sweet responsibility and not as an opportunity. She sacrificed everything she knew for the well-being of a friend. The most amazing part of the story, and a beautiful picture of God’s grace, is that because of her sacrificial gift of friendship, she became the great-grandmother of King David and a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ! Wow! All because she gave everything in a friendship, expecting nothing in return.
Think about something for a moment. If two people enter into a friendship, each seeking to only take what is beneficial for themselves, what does each person receive? Nothing. No one in the relationship gave anything, therefore, there was nothing to receive. However, if two women walk into a friendship, both willing to sacrificially give of themselves both women have their cups filled to the brim, overflowing with joy.
What if everyone lived life giving instead of seeking to take? Not a single person would be left wanting. Strange. And yet I believe our magnificent Creator designed relationships to work best when we are giving instead of taking. I like to think Abba Father is looking down at me right now, shaking his head, and laughing at my realization of His perfect irony. Our deepest needs are always—always—met when we are serving others. It doesn’t make sense, but it how God works.
As I look back on the beautiful journey of life, my friendships have always been most meaningful when I am seeking to fill the cup of my friends. And in turn, I am never left wanting. When was the last time you hand-wrote a note of appreciation for a dear friend? When last did you drop everything and show up with a cup of coffee at the door of a hurting friend? When last did you offer to watch your friend’s kids so a desperately needed date-night could take place? When last did you serve your friend? You see, I have done none of these things in recent months, and I that must change.
Let’s seek fill the cups of our friends, ladies, and watch to see if yours doesn’t overflow in return.