Recently, a situation came up that reminded me of the power of friendships. I am a person who is richly blessed with a lot of friends. My heart, and my social media friend list, is full. As I looked through those who count me as a friend on Facebook, I was reminded of vivid memories. There are those who went to elementary through high school with me, those which I have sat under as great leaders and teachers, and those I’ve walked beside or led through Bible studies. There are those I have worked with, those I’ve shared a fence line with, those whose children I have taught and a few of those ex-students, as well. There are kids I was once a nanny for, people who I served alongside on mission trips and those I have met through church, mutual friends or online. Indeed, I am a rich woman.
But this situation recently reminded me that not all of my acquaintances and neighbors are the same kind of friends. You see, there are those that you talk to when you see them at the grocery store. There are those that you share space with when your kids are involved in similar activities. There are those who would step up and offer you a ride if they spotted you with a flat tire on the roadside. All of those kinds of friends are important in life and we need lots of them!
But the true-blue, through thick and thin, through the hard and ugly stuff type are my favorite. It’s easy to love someone when life looks pretty. It’s not hard to be there for someone when things are calm and comfortable. It’s pretty smooth sailing when life is good, paychecks are coming in and you can hang out and relax together. But when the going gets rough, people tend to disappear and you’re left feeling very lonely and isolated. It’s in these times that you find out who are your real friends, they say.
You see, it’s an entirely different thing to be a friend and hold a hand and walk with them to the rehab center. It’s incredibly intimate to hold a brother or sister while the monitors go quiet and show a flat line, while they sob at the loss. It’s a terrific feeling when you exit jail visitation and find a friend who has driven an hour waiting for you in the parking lot just to hug you. Finding that you are not alone, haven’t been forgotten and that someone cares can truly change a person’s whole life. While it’s so much harder and requires a lot more energy and time, THAT is the type of friend I strive to be. I don’t always do it well, but I try.
In Proverbs, it says that a friend loves at all times. It doesn’t say a friend loves when life is going well or a friend loves when things are all sunshine and roses. It says ALL times. And at the end of the day, we all know that life is not ALL good. We all face valleys and mountaintops. I’ve found that it’s often who we are able to cling to in those valleys that shape us.
While I’m living life on a mountaintop at the moment, I know there will be more valleys and I am deeply honored to know I have those friends who will leap off the rocks and rush to be by my side when I get there. Together we will pray and talk and find a way to climb our way back up the steep rock faces to the peaks. Are you a valley kind of friend? Are you surrounded by friends who will hold you in your valleys? I pray you are.