Every January, for the past few years, I try to start the year by praying for my old friends. When I say “old friends” I’m referring to those very special people in my life who have been my good, reliable friends for at least a decade. Some even going back as far as highschool.
You know the saying, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are.” Or “Birds of the same feather flock together.” We get the drift, right?
The nuns in school used to say those things to us intermittently. And I used to wonder what they really meant. The mystery finally unraveled when I was in college. Yes. I’m a slow learner.
In college, we were finally let loose into the world. No more tight schedules. No more uniforms. No more nuns checking the length of our skirts. (Well, the funny thing was, we folded up our skirts shorter when we went out on dates AFTER classes!)
In college, we got to choose who to be friends with from a much wider array of people. Of course, boys were a delightful addition to our landscape because we came from an all-girls school. All our lives, we grew up safe, snug and insulated, in a bubble-wrap cocoon.
In college, we were suddenly set free. We could finally make decisions like — will I cut classes today and go on a day trip to Tagaytay instead? (We had cars or boyfriends who had cars.) Will I ask my professor for extra work so I can get a higher grade? Will I hang out with this crowd because they’re untouchable? Or so intelligent that they’re impervious to anything and everything? Will I try to make it to the Dean’s List… or just coast along? Should my goal just be “not to flunk, and have a life”? Should I tell my friend that she must stop flirting with our professor? Should I tell another friend that she shouldn’t have an abortion? Or should I just shut up and leave them to their own devices?
Choices. One inevitably made choices with, of course, one’s friends.
I believe there’s a lot of truth to what those nuns used to tell us in school. It’s true. The friends we choose to hang out with today will determine the trajectory of our lives, five years down the road.
Loyalty and Trust are two big things, two sterling qualities, that an old friend should have. When we’re in danger of falling, when we’re being disparaged or destroyed by others, when we’ve failed big time, when someone has to speak up for us, when someone has to stoop down to help us up — when that one friend comes along, we are blessed beyond measure. Beyond measure. Because there are very, very few who will do this.
That’s why the Bible says,
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”
The Bible also says, “Some friends may ruin you, but a real friend will be more loyal than a brother.”
There will always be superficial, utilitarian friendships — with “friends” who are there because they can use you; need something from you; because you’re convenient to have around.
There are “friends” who will ruin us, abandon us, or immediately dissociate from us when we lose our influence, wealth or position; when we fail miserably at something or make a decision that’s unpopular.
Well, consider it vetting time. Now you know. The few who stand by you — put themselves at risk for you in your dark days — are your REAL friends.
That’s why it takes time to see who our real friends are. Friendship is tested by time and trials. Even by victories. Those who can be sincerely happy for you — and not begrudge you your successes — are also your true friends. Take care of them. Don’t ever take them for granted. Don’t ever trade them off for sparkly, amusing, new-found friends who haven’t yet crawled through the dark tunnels of life with you.
My best friends have been with me through my worst and best seasons. Yes. Seasons. Because it’s only your real friends who will be there for you, for the long haul. Some can be there for you over lunch, a cup of coffee, a 3-hour phone call — or a day trip, at most. Be thankful for them, too, because they took time to be there for you!
But the ones who stick it out with you through weeks, and months, and years of tending and mending — no matter how long it takes — those are your real friends.
It will certainly cost a lot to be a real friend to someone. If you are that kind of a friend, if you’re willing to make that kind of investment and sacrifice, then God will also give you friends who will go out on a limb for you.
But if you’re just a fair-weather friend, please unlearn this nasty habit fast. You are much better than that.
Finally, most of us know this — Jesus is the best, real friend you can ever have. Let Him show you what a real friend is like. Especially in these perilous times when adversity can be just a sneeze away.