Authored by Mara Hodler
I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. Friends are really special. They are different from family in that you get to choose your friends. On your Facebook account, you can choose to accept a friend request or decline it, and it’s somewhat the same way in real life. The fact that friendship is a choice is one of the reasons it’s so special. You know your friends CHOOSE you and you CHOOSE them.
The right friends are a huge asset in life. A popular pastor and author from the late 19th century, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys in life. Many might have fallen beneath the bitterness of their trial, had they not found a friend.”
When you want to be the kind of friend that helps someone not “fall beneath the bitterness of their trial,” you might think you need to do something amazing, or have something great to say or to give. But what I’ve found in friendship is that the simple act of showing up, of being present at a time when friendship is most needed, is what really counts. It’s not the expensive gifts, amazing words of wisdom, or out-of-this-world fun that makes you the most valuable. While that can be pretty awesome, most importantly, if someone can count on your presence in their life—then they have a true friend.
I read a story about a man named Sam Rayburn. This guy had a pretty important job; he was the Speaker of the US House of Representatives for 17 years—the longest tenure in US history. One night the teenage daughter of a close friend of Mr. Rayburn passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. First thing the next morning, the father of this girl heard a knock at the door. There was Sam Rayburn. “I wanted to come and see what I could do to help,” he said.
The father, reeling with shock and grief, replied, “We have already made all the arrangements. There really isn’t anything for you to do.”
Mr. Rayburn put a hand on his friend’s shoulder and kindly asked, “Have you had your morning coffee yet?” His friend explained that they had not yet eaten anything, so Mr. Rayburn said that the least he could do was fix a breakfast for his friend’s family.
As he worked away in the kitchen, his friend asked, “Weren’t you supposed to have breakfast at the White House this morning?”
“Yes, I was,” said Mr. Rayburn, “but I called the president and told him that a friend needed me, so I couldn’t make it.”
When I was 16, there was a guy in my class; I’ll call him Marcus. He was the quiet type, never said much, and I never really knew what to say to him either. We worked on a few school projects together, but never really talked about anything other than that. Halfway through the school year, something happened in Marcus’ life. I don’t remember what, just that he was obviously bothered by something. I knew he needed a friend, but I really didn’t know how to be that friend to him. I muscled up my courage and went over to his house after school one day and found him tinkering around in the garage. I said hi to him, and then proceeded just to sit and watch him fiddle around with an old clock for at least an hour.
I have to admit, it felt a little awkward just sitting there. I had no idea if I was being helpful or just appeared to be a very unstealthy stalker. After that visit, we had a short break from school where I didn’t see Marcus. When I saw him next, he took me by surprise. He came up to me and started talking. We talked for a very long time, and we’ve been friends from that day onward. That awkward act of showing up was enough to make him trust me. I had no idea that it would be a pivotal act in our friendship, but I am so glad I showed up that day.
There are two Bible verses on friendship that I especially love. Both of them are from Proverbs:
A friend loves at all times.1
There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.2
I think the first verse, in its few words, suggests that friendships can go through all sorts of things: times when you don’t agree, times when you are angry with each other, times of stress, grief, or struggle that cause one or the other to pull back for a time. Life can also get hectic and busy. You experience success and you experience failure. Through all that, you know your friend loves you. You know your friend values you, considers you important, believes in you, and supports you.
The second verse says that a good friend shows up. You can’t get rid of a good friend just because you are having a bad day, or week, or even year. “Showing up” could mean posting something on your friend’s Facebook wall, Skyping them, sending a text, or some other avenue of connecting even without being physically present. It can also mean praying for your friend.
Albert Schweitzer said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. In the course of life we get to be on both the giving and the receiving end of things. Sometimes you are the one who rekindles the hope and joy in someone, and other times you are the one who needs your spirit restored.”
When you really need a friend and someone shows up on your doorstep (or Facebook wall), oh, what a happy day it is! Sam Rayburn showing up at the home of his grieving friend was probably the first ray of light that that family had experienced since losing their daughter. It might have been just enough to keep them holding on when they felt like giving up. I like to think it was.
1 Proverbs 17:17 NIV 2 Proverbs 18:24 NIV
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International