The first time I met her, we chatted for a few minutes, then turned away, uninterested. It was our first week of seminary, and both of us had the same immediate impression: “No, not that one.” I don’t remember when it changed, when we realized that we were going to laugh until our bellies hurt, and be gentle when things were rough, that we would be friends of one another’s right hand. That, years later, when we hadn’t seen one another in nearly a decade, we’d pick up right where we’d been, just like that.
And then there was the man who seemed to be twenty-six going on sixteen, or the woman who immediately impressed me by her depth of thought, or the guy I first met in a prayer group, to whom I can entrust anything. Really, anything. And the woman who was my partner working late hours at the library desk, checking out books and learning all the campus gossip, or the one who wrote me a formidably formal letter, in perfect business style, when we were assigned to be room-mates freshman year.
Do you ever stop to marvel at your friends, the people who keepyou alive and make you laugh and bear you up when you are down, with whom you can be deeply real? Do you ever think about who you would have been without them? How poor your life would be without them?
“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another’s mind,” writes the author of Proverbs. And it’s true; as Martin Buber said, we receive our very selves from one another. We write the reality of love on one another’s souls.
Jesus said, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends.” “What a friend we have in Jesus,” the hymn reminds us. We talk, so often, about the ways God is a friend to us — but how are we friends to God? What marks do we make in Jesus’ life? How is he different because you have been alive? How are you different because he is in your life?