There is no greater joy than to have deep friendships that withstand the test of time - fellow pilgrims in life who walk with us, and we with them, through all the stuff that life serves up.
It was about ten years into our marriage, that Mary Ann and I reflected on the fact that so many 'friendships' are so shallow. There is a conflict in the church and people who have long been our 'friends' get mad and it's over. Some slight happens and what we thought was a solid relationship is finished. We grew tired of such shallow relationships and decided that we would cultivate what we call 'friends for life.'
A friend for life is a friendship that will withstand the test of time, withstand distance when circumstances move us away from one another, people who will be transparent and allow us to do the same, and fellow pilgrims who can provide mutual encouragement through the inevitable tough periods of life. We knew there would not be many but we knew we needed a few.
Relationships are perhaps the most important investments we can make in life. People who are in our corner, who know us best, who love us even though they know us well, who spur us on in our faith are more precious than gold. If you have a few of those you know exactly what I am talking about. I would give up all my material possessions before I would give those relationships up.
As investments, the quality of those relationships will depend on the time, care and intentionality that we put into them. Which is why time with our 'friends for life' is always a high priority for us. Apart from our relationship with Christ and our marriage and family, there are no more important investments for us. We know that we cannot do the journey of life well by ourselves. We need others and they need us. There is a deep satisfaction and richness to these relationships which nourishes the soul and encourages the heart.
There is a wonderful accountability in such friendships. Not the kind one has in an 'accountability group' which is often rather artificial but the accountability of deep friendships that will not let a friend stray and if they do will gently bring them back. It is the mutual modeling of followership of Christ that is a living encouragement to both parties to stay on the path and to finish the journey well.
There is also great security in knowing that the curves that life throws are not dealt with alone. When I was gravely sick and in the hospital for 42 days (35 of them in ICU) earlier this year, Grant and Carol dropped everything to be at the hospital supporting Mary Ann and the boys, Ken and Barb came each evening they were home, mom and dad nearly lived at the hospital, Arthur and Wayne flew in from Tennessee and Pennsylvania, my nine siblings each came from around the country. My prayer partner Naomi could not visit (99 years old) but prayed fervently for us. We were surrounded by unbelievable love and care that sustained our family through the darkest days of our lives.
Do not neglect your 'friends for life.' Treat them as a special blessing and your most special investment. Nurture them and they will nurture you. The cool thing is that they will sustain us in life and we will have all eternity to enjoy them. If you don't have the gift of 'friends for life,' ask God to grant you some. It will make all the difference.