“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Google says a friend is a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations. Some quotes I picked out randomly, author unknown.
“Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest, it’s about who came, and never left your side.”
“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
What exactly is a friend and what is friendship?
I do not have a best friend. There were always small groups of people, commonly called friends, coming in and going out of my life, at different times. I am also not good in maintaining long-distance friendships. Maybe I am just too afraid to have more people walking out of my life, leaving me with no choice but to cope with my own emotions. Growing up, although my family situation was undesirably complicated and broken, I always thank God for blessing me with a little brother. I claimed this little brother as a gift from God to me so I need not be alone anymore-I can have a best friend forever! When my parents were busy fighting with each other, I had him. I remember how beautiful he was when he was a baby and for many years, I would hold his little hand as we fall asleep in our shared room almost every night because I was afraid I would lose him, that he might be taken away from me when I was asleep. However, because of how broken I was growing up, I was quite a terror elder sister to him so he probably would not feel or say the same of me. Out of my brokenness, my love for him was more expressed in wanting him as a possession, with fear of losing a soulmate, than gratefulness to God.
I have no idea what it means to be a friend, what to expect of a friend, what is a friend. Even when I have claimed the use of this term for my benefit many times, I think I must have been a failed friend if anyone ever considered me as one. I never get close enough because I am afraid of losing it.
I am constantly plagued by the feeling of rejection. I yearn for acceptance but hid it very well for fear of having to suffer the pain of being rejected over and again. Relationships with people are usually too difficult for my comprehension, more so when there are no fixed definition of roles and responsibilities like what we commonly called, friendship. There are no fix duties, no specific roles and responsibilities like what we can have with our parents, siblings, spouses, relatives and children, as in, there is no string attached, no commitment. We do not need to sign on a dotted line for friendship to commence. There is no particular announcement made when two persons meet and become friends except on Facebook, perhaps. There is no need to go through legal procedures or any sort of processes to break up a friendship unlike how we need to when marriages fall apart. There is no legal framework or any sort of protocol to bind two persons in a friendship and how they can run it as well. There is just nothing. The degree of commitment to each other varies from person to person and changes from time to time. Promises made can be broken, expectations developed can be blown away. There is no right and no wrong, no white and no black, no rules and no regulations.
Besides being in a season of quietness with God (which did not quite turn out as planned) and a time that I was to set aside for new and old friendships, I had an interesting encounter at the very tail-end of twenty-fifteen, rounding off a very undesirably chaotic year with a gentle-loving invitation to be a friend of God. It was not the first time I experience that kind of pain-a pain in the heart that tells me I am losing something, losing someone. Usually, I react aggressively to this kind of pain and the outcome, usually more undesirable than it already should be. My reaction comes largely from a place of insecurity. I may look tough and aggressive on the outside but it is possibly just a defense mechanism. I have built a facade to protect myself from all the merciless hurls of the world. However, it was somehow different this time. I did not react in my anger. I was totally subdued by something more than feeling the pain of losing. There was something that God wanted me to pursue despite the disappointment and pain or the usual response to sweep it under the carpet so we can all return to living our normal lives. It has been a very tough period of two to three years and a very broken me felt so hurt and betrayed by a good old friend. We kind of sorted out some details after my outbursts but there was still something amiss. I was hurt like with most of the other friends whom I had felt betrayed by and I eventually distant myself from. However, I did not run away this time because God confronted me right where I was, sobbing in self-pity, angry with the situation and the people who seemed to have rejected and betrayed me. With no agenda, no clue at all, I picked up the courage to arrange for an unusual meet up with my good old friend to talk, a heart-to-heart talk. It was the most challenging kind of meeting ever, to confront the pain and expose myself to scrutiny in my vulnerability. My mind was exploding with questions like “What am I suppose to say?”, “Tell him how I feel like there is a gap between us?”, “what gap?” and “Is there suppose to be an expectation, a standard to follow?”, “How can I save myself from this embarrassment or even shame?”.
The time came very quickly where we met with no agenda, just as “friends”. It was awkward because both of us wear many hats and out of these many roles we play, we have responsibilities to fulfill in our community including to each other. Although we have known each other for almost two decades, there were always something objective to talk about when we meet, especially in the recent years. I did not know how to start the conversation and only recall that I fumbled and stumbled with my words smeared with tears. I was trying to make out phrases to form into sentences to express my pain, a feeling of the missing portion of something of our twenty years of friendship. My speech most possibly did not make any sense but God did a miraculous work, opening up new spheres for our relationship to grow and glow in Him. It felt surreal but it was not. It was special because of the divine intervention that allowed two sinful persons into a realm of holiness to seek out the true friendship that God has so created. In the midst of chaos, there is fertility. I fall short to be called a friend but God has so graciously invited me into this friendship, with Jesus at the center of it all.
Friend of God-Abraham
James 2:23 says “and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.”
What is the meaning of Friend?
In John 15:12-17, Jesus says “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
Friends is the ultimate relationship between us and God. It really is not about how long it has been but how He came and never left. I am grateful for this extended invitation from our Lord Jesus, to be a friend, to be a friend of God.
This new year, God has given me a renewed heart to love. Through it all, because Jesus is the center of the friendships He has given me, I am not afraid to open up my heart to love and to experience love, more so, His unconditional love. Friends who came, stayed alongside and never left even in my darkest moments-greater love is no more than this.
(Featured image: Thailand, Phuket; January 2016)
His beautiful & relentless love makes a soul relentlessly beautiful.