Every Thursday I’ll post an article having to do with either relational or emotional matters. Hope it helps.
Blest Be The Ties That Bind
We’re sitting here watching a beautifully put together gospel concert by country superstar Alan Jackson at the Grand Old Opry. The man’s running through a set of traditional hymns, singing with a simple integrity that’s pulling tears out of me. And somehow, for no discernible reason, the music’s got me thinking of my friends.
Maybe it’s the community feeling a good old fashioned gospel sing along evokes. Maybe it’s the songs reminding me of the bonds I’ve been honored to forge with Christ-centered, strong, loving people who’ve proven their loyalty and availability over the years. Whatever – I’m suddenly wanting to make sure they know how much they mean to me, and by happy coincidence this is the day I post about relational issues. So here are three things I want my friends to know, things I guess we all want the people closest to us to remember.
First, they’re valued. The people who give me their time, affection, input, empathy and support are not just bodies I hang out with for distraction. They are literal treasures, lives I’ve invested in with years of shared hardship, joy, fun and boredom. And one of the reasons they’re so treasured is my understanding of how little time, affection, and empathy we have to spare.
Everyone I know is running on low cylinders. Everyone I know, to a man or to a woman, is stressed, too busy, scrambling to keep up, tired. So when someone whose life is already stretched to the brink is willing to stretch a little further to make room for me, then wow. Big wow. I’m fully aware that when a couple has Renee and I over for dinner, it’s a sacrifice. Or when folks take time to see a show with us, or a man meets me for breakfast, or some guys plan a golf game, it takes work. There are plenty of other things they could be doing besides spending their time on me, so I place a huge premium on their efforts. They, and what they bring into my life by way of fun and encouragement, are valued more than they know, and more than I can say.
Second, they’re respected. I not only value them as people, I am genuinely impressed with them. My friends are smart, accomplished, sincere, funny, honest and gracious. They’re the kind of people I would point to if I were the new guy in town and say, “I hope I can hang out with them.” I watch the way they raise their families, conduct their businesses, and generally live out the faith, and I realize they’re the kind of people I hope both my sons always have in their lives. And believe me, there’s no higher praise I could give. My friends are respected, because they’re so darned respectable. Honoring them for that comes pretty naturally.
Finally, they’re enjoyed. Somehow I’m wondering if they really know how much I look forward to seeing them, goofing off with them, praying with them, body surfing with them, whatever. To genuinely and hugely enjoy someone is a gift making life so much more bearable, because so much of life is grey. Paperwork, chores, doctor visits, meetings are all vital and constant, but really, they’re (at least to my thinking) kinda grey. But in the middle of the grey, when I remember that this weekend we’ll be seeing a show with some friends, I get little color explosions in my head, brought on by happy anticipation and gratitude. Hard work keeps the machine going; friendship oils the gears.
So to the woman or man who’s a friend, whether of mine or someone else, here’s my salute: You make this life, which isn’t easy for anyone, meaningful, secure and fun. You’re one of the few constants that can be relied on, and (if you can bear the melodrama of it, and I can) you’re a sustaining force and a strong comfort. If you’re a friend, to me or to anyone, you rock.
Here’s to friendship, and a commitment to building up, protecting, standing with and celebrating the people in our lives who we have the honor of calling Friend.