I recently spoke to someone much older and wiser than myself. That’s actually a pretty good thing to do every now and again. I highly recommend it. She said a lot of things to me that made a lot of sense, but one in particular that struck an unusual chord in my heart:
“Nicole, trust me, at the end of your life you aren’t going to remember to-do lists or deadlines. You are going remember people- the people you loved and the people who loved you. So don’t take them for granted.”
It’s been a couple of weeks, but I can’t seem to shake this proverbial truth handed to me over a casual cup of coffee. It was spoken with the perfect blend of authenticity and authority. She was not simply quoting something she had pinned on Pinterest the day before; she was ripping out a page of her own story and handing it to me as cliff notes for mine. The simplicity and honesty of her words has left an almost haunting hum in my observations and reflections.
I used to look back at my life and see setbacks and progress, challenges and accomplishments. But now as I reexamine, there are faces surroundings every one of the peaks and valleys of my short-lived life. Sure, some of my not-so-great-moments had people’s fingerprints on them in the typical formations we are all used to- pain, disappointment, heartbreak. But more often than not, people have left their mark on me for the better. These people have loved me and believed in me and challenged me and inspired me. Who I am I referring to? Simple. My friends.
I look back on the rollercoaster adventure the last couple of years my life has been, and I am incredibly thankful for the ups and downs, the twists and turns. It’s been scary at times, but always thrilling. I am thankful for what I have discovered about the character of God, the love of Christ, and the power of His Spirit. I am thankful God has allowed me the great privilege of not just preaching about faith, but living out that same faith in a very personal way. I have so much to be thankful for, but perhaps the thing I am most thankful for is not a thing at all. It’s people. It’s my friends.
In a day and age when we are sold on the lie that ‘bigger is better’ and ‘more is what matters’, we can easily deceive ourselves into believing that being well-known is the same as being well-loved. In my humble experience this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Crowds may applaud one’s charisma, but very rarely are they interested in the development of one’s character. Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with gaining influence, especially when we use our influence to lead people to Jesus. But I hope we never confuse broad influence with friendship’s intimacy. It doesn’t really matter how many people know our name if there aren’t a few faithful souls who really know what’s going on in our lives. And when life throws us a tragic curveball, let’s be real, we don’t find comfort in how many people liked our latest post or showed up to our last event; we find comfort in the company of a good friend.
I am eternally grateful for my friends. They have taught me so much about friendship, certainly more than could ever be neatly compiled within this blog. But I’ll give it a shot anyways, partly because I love a challenge and partly because I love my friends. And mostly because like a wise person once told me, “Never take your friends for granted.”
So here’s a list devoted to the rare but not necessarily lost art of friendship. May we not just dabble in it, but may we devote ourselves to becoming skilled craftsman in every possible way…
(aka: Qualities of Great Friends)
- They really love Jesus. Like for reals. They do more than sit next to you in church. They inspire you to trust Jesus with all you’ve got and to obey His Word daily.
- They speak truth in love. They know how to keep it real while also keeping it kind. If you are doing something stupid, they tell you, “Stop doing that stupid thing.” And you don’t get offended because you know they don’t tell you the truth to harm you, but to help you.
- They laugh with you. They understand that life is serious enough to not take ourselves too seriously. They know just the right moment to text you a Michael Scott quote from The Office or respond to a question about their day with a self-made meme instead of the usual emoticons. Why? Because it’s funnier that way.
- They forgive quickly. There’s nothing worse than hanging out with someone and not knowing where you stand. But great friends are uncomplicated in the best way. If they are bothered by something, they simply bring it up. And then they forgive. They move on quickly and don’t keep track of your mistakes to bring it up again in the future.
- They pray often. It is the coolest thing to be talking with a friend, and they suddenly say, “You know what? We should pray.” And then they actually pray with you right then and there. And it’s equally as cool to have people in your world who not only say they will be praying for you as the Christian way of ending a conversation, but who actually do.
- They have smart things to bring to the conversation. When it comes to advice, they don’t just compare your situation to someone else’s or draw upon their own opinions. They point to the truth of God’s Word.
- They’ve got your back. They don’t broadcast your news to others when you aren’t around. They can be trusted with what ought to be kept confidential.
- They cheer you on. They don’t dish out passive aggressive comments or underhanded compliments when you succeed. They believe in you and they sincerely celebrate your achievements and your victories. They aren’t trying to keep you at a certain level of success; they want to see you soar.
- They show up for you. When you need them, they are there. They are there for the airport runs and the breakups and the moving days and the moral support and the every now and again pep talk. Even if they live on the other side of the world, they Face Time or drop a quick message to let you know they care.
- They have fun! After you’ve spent time with them you feel better about life. They see the glass half full, or at the very least not empty, and believe the best is yet to come. They like making the most of opportunities and creating memories, and are always up for new adventures.