Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Friends With Benefits
One night a while back while goofing around on Twitter I tweeted the following in an attempt to be funny: My friend has health insurance. I have a 401K. Does that make us friends with benefits? #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmmm
Unless you have been hiding under a rock (not that there's anything wrong with that!) for the past decade or so, you know that is not what our society means by Friends with Benefits. There have been movies made, books written (both pro and con) and countless situations on situation comedies featuring the concept. If you don't know what it is, watch the early episode of The Bang Bang Theory in which Penny tries to explain the social construct to Sheldon. Then you'll be really confused! For now I'll just say that the benefit in question in the majority of those cases in sex. But that's not what I want to talk about today. The title may have reeled you in, but what I want to focus on today is not the idea of Friends with Benefits, but instead on a much more important concept- the Benefits of Friendship.
One of the great blessings of any life is true friendship. I was fortunate to discover as early as my junior high years what a true friend looks like. I became part of a group of people who both corporately and individually showed me the keys to being a good friend. And that key was trust. You see, we shared everything. We talked about relationships and sports. We shared dreams and disappointments. We told each other when we thought someone was messing up. We explained dirty jokes to each other when someone didn't "get it." We held each other accountable and laughed in the face of peer pressure. And we talked about God and our faith and our doubts. Most of those people- my first REAL friends- remain my friends to this day. And the group added more and more people as we got older. But I also discovered more friends with whom I could share everything as I moved from church to church, and as former youth morphed from their roles as students to a more important place in my life- friends. There is no greater blessing in life than friends and family. And then there are those very few people in our lives we love so much that the word FRIEND, even bold and in all caps, is not nearly big enough. But that's a post for another day...
There are many people who mistake acquaintances for friends. Facebook has done as much to devalue the word friend as the Apple Store has to devalue the word genius. A true friend is not someone you know or even someone you know about. Being able to tell you when you went on vacation, what you had for lunch and what you are watching on TV at any given moment does not make us friends. It makes us acquaintances. We know each other, but we don't KNOW each other...ya know? Being a true friend means getting your hands dirty and actually spending time sharing life with a person. It means opening you soul to them and being trustworthy enough that they do the same for you. For me, a true friend is less someone I see everyday and more someone I wish with all my heart I could see everyday! They are not the people I long to see only when things in my life are good, but the people I NEED to see when life gets rocky. One of the things that holds my life together in the midst of the storm is knowing there are so many people who have my back. True friends who see my mess, hear me cry and love me anyway. People who will tell me I'm an idiot even as they give me a hug. Go back to the concept of Facebook friends for a moment. How many of those people do you wish were your next door neighbors so you could share life with them everyday? Or better still, how many of them would you invite to live with you if they had such a need? There is nothing wrong with having lots of acquaintances. They add to our lives as well. But aside from knowing Jesus, there are few benefits in life that equal having true friends.
So why this rant today? Because I wanted remind myself- and you- that Michael W. Smith may have been wrong. Friends are not necessarily friends forever. Through faith, we can be brother and sister in Christ forever, sure. But to remain true friends we have to work at it. Friendship that is taken for granted can wither and die. Friendships that are only pulled out of the closet when we have special needs morph back into acquaintances. Friendships that are abused often end very badly and with a devastating certainty. There are few pains worse than losing a good friend, for any reason. But there is no excuse for losing a true friend because one of you just gives up on the other. Some of the most special friends in my life are people that I lost for a period of time and was left to wonder if our friendships were over, only to come back stronger than ever because neither of us quit on the other. Keep fighting for the friendships that matter to you. They are the best benefits around.
I have homework for you today. Make a list of the people who are your true friends- the people who you can talk to about anything, who know you inside out and love you anyway. The people your life would not be the same without. The people you wish you could see today. And them reach out to them. TODAY! If you can see see them, see them. If not, give them a call or a text. Tell them that this crazy guy you know told you to tell them that you are so thankful to have them as friend and that you want all of the benefits that come from your friendship. That ought to get a conversation jump started! Let them know they are treasured. I hope my friends already know that. But lately life keeps reminding me that every day is a day to take nothing for granted. So share the love today. Be well, my friends...and you too, acquaintances. :)
Because of Jesus,