Today’s blog is by one of my best friends. Chris is wise and a GREAT friend.
If you were to come to my city, Las Vegas, the first thing you would see is the Strip. That four-mile stretch of well-lit hotels, casinos, and bars that is world-renown for providing excess in whatever you could want. However, if you ventured off the Strip with me to “normal Vegas”, you’d find normal grocery stores, normal banks, and normal restaurants. The one thing you might not find “normal” is our neighborhoods. Instead of nice picket fences surrounding houses, you’d find concrete walls. This interesting façade indicates an uglier truth of Vegas: loneliness. We don’t just lead the nation in addiction and suicide because of our casinos, but because of our walls.
We all put walls up when we’re scared or insecure. The problem with walls is they not only hold fear and insecurity in, but also keep intimacy and friendship out. The kind of friendship that lets you relax and that lasts through storms. Although I wouldn’t ask him for marital advice, the biblical figure, Solomon, has great things to say about tearing walls down and building friendship up. Here are three things I’ve learned from him about cultivating lasting friendships:
- Friendship Is Fundamental – 9Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
You’ve probably heard this verse most often at a Christian wedding, but I love it for friendship! Solomon takes common imagery of the day and advocates friendship is both effective and safe. However, he uses the word “pity” for anyone who doesn’t have that bond. The first step in cultivating lasting friendships is the desire for them. Otherwise, your pursuit for them will dwindle at the first sign of resistance.
- Friendship Is Found – Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel. – Proverbs 27:9
Today, anything can be made sweet. Even the most bitter drink (coffee, in my opinion) can be made sweet (see: Frappuccino). What’s interesting about this verse, though, is when Solomon penned it sugar had not yet been discovered. That means anything that was sweet in Solomon’s day was not made, but found. He says friendships are similar. There must be some common value, interest, or experience that you build a friendship upon. Don’t hear me say complete similarity is necessary, but there must be a base of commonality.
I pastor a church in Las Vegas and one of my best friends here is Emaurie, our worship pastor. I like sports; he’s artistic. I’m from the suburbs; him the city. I’m Type A…he’s definitely not. I teach; he sings. I have a buzz cut; he sports dreads. But yet there’s a deep friendship between us. It’s one founded on love for Jesus and expanded on the shared experience pursuing Him in a dark city. CS Lewis said, “Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself”.
- Friendship Is Forged – Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. – Proverbs 27:5-6
This might be the most foregone point of the three because today, we tolerate least what offends us most. However, I’ve found an absolutely essential key to cultivating lasting friendships is healthy conflict. The picture of a blacksmith comes to mind as he “forges” metal. Every time he swings the hammer into the distressed steel, it gets stronger. What would happen if he swung his hammer at distressed glass, though? Would it get stronger? Of course not, because the chemical compound in steel promotes strength in conflict, while that of glass promotes a shattering. Choosing friendships forged in steel means all parties allow constructive criticism and refuse to move into offense from it. This is possible only when you know the other person loves and has your best in mind. And that reality lived out in friendship opens you both up to the refining process of healthy conflict!
I want my life to be void of walls that bring loneliness and full of lasting friendships that bring life.