I have been thinking about this for quite a while now, but it was not until this weekend that all of my thoughts came together, ready to be poured out and put into words.
We had the delight of spending an entire evening with some old friends whom we have not seen in several years ~ I met the husband in college and had the privilege of meeting his sweet wife a few years later. We spent four hours talking. That is it! No entertainment. No television. No texting. Just four old friends sharing their hearts, their experiences, their struggles. Sharing LIFE. It was wonderful and ministered to me in a unique way. Being trusted with deep emotions and hurts is such a precious thing. Being allowed into the hearts and minds of two people you care for is a privilege. This couple let us see inside of them ... they let us ask questions ... they let us share our own moments of frustration and heartache in the hopes of encouraging them ... simply stated: They let us love them. And I cherished every single moment.
The following day I was able to spend an entire afternoon with one of my oldest and dearest friends ~ just the two of us and Ellie. From the moment we hugged hello we did not stop talking. And our conversation, while light at times and filled with giggles and laughter, was a conversation that mattered. My precious friend struggles daily with a disease that has controlled her life for almost two decades. She has endured countless doctors, testing, illnesses, setbacks, horrible symptoms beyond her control ... and she has endured all of it with grace. She has had moments of anger and frustration and despair during the course of these years, but always, always, she holds her head up high, faces the day ahead and serves and gives to others with a passion and intensity I have never seen equaled. Now, she is about to enter a new phase of her journey and yesterday I looked her in the eye and committed to walking through the fire with her... especially a specific part that I can literally do with her to provide a source of encouragement and mental support as she faces the long road ahead. And do you know what was most beautiful about that moment? She did not argue with me. She did not try to talk me out of it. She just looked at me with tears in her beautiful green eyes and said, "Thank you."
And that is why I ask the question: Are you in it for the long haul?
Are you a friend who is willing to go the distance? It is easy to be a friend when you are looking through bridal magazines to find "the dress", decorating your first apartment, shopping for baby clothes and planning a vacation at the beach together.
But what about real life? Are you going to be as eager and committed when a spouse loses his job? A child is in the hospital with no immediate answers? Will you stand by with your feet ready to serve through surgeries, hospital stays, addictions, infidelities, marriage struggles, wayward children, health issues, death of a parent, terminal illnesses, walking away from the Lord?
When a friend is wheelchair bound due to an accident, will you be willing to spend a week in a chair to experience her daily struggles so you can better know how to serve her? When her child is diagnosed with a disease, will you pray for that child every time you hug your own? Will you sacrifice your own wants in order to provide a week of groceries for a friend who has no job or medication for a sick parent who cannot afford it?
It is easy to be a friend when life is simple ... when our biggest concerns are where to eat out after church and who is hosting the Superbowl. It is almost effortless. There may be a hurt feeling here or a misunderstanding there, but it is rarely of eternal significance.
But life changes. It gets harder. And for no other reason than the simple reality that there is no such thing as perfect this side of heaven. If you are a living, breathing human being with only one friend in the world, you are going to walk through a fire together. There will always be fire. Sometimes in their world, sometimes in yours. Are you willing to get dirty? Are you willing to carry the bucket of water again and again to quench the flame? Are you willing to speak truth to someone even if it makes them uncomfortable? Or angry? To look them in the eye and say, "This is not okay." "You need to fight for your marriage with every fiber of your being." "I will do this with you - every day - all day - until it is over."
Are you willing to go the distance?
"Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ."