Chapter Friends

Our beloved nine-year-old granddaughter Eloise and her school friend, Evelyn (Evie) enjoy their daily interactions with each other at school. Evie asked Eloise recently, “Do you think we’ll still be friends when we get old?” And Eloise enthusiastically responded, “Of course!” When Matt shared this with me, I thought, how sweet! I then asked him, “Well, what did you say to her?” He played the role of a “Daddy Downer” and said, “Honey, you shouldn’t have fibbed to her! You don’t know the future!” He reasoned, as an adult of experience, that we should be careful not to over promise because many friendships don’t last forever!

Friends: Ellie and Evie
Image credit: clipartmax.com

One of my greatest blessings has been to keep up with friends from years back. And… one of my greatest disappointments has been the inability to keep up with all my friends! Out of hundreds of relationships, I have only been able to keep current with a few of them. Occasionally, I will drop a Christmas, birthday or sympathy card in the mail or "like" a friend's post or make a comment on social media. I hope these distant friends feel my love and encouragement as much as memories of them have and continue to bless me.

I am grateful for all those in my past who have been close friends, neighbors, and fellow church members. They made a significant investment in my life and family. They mentored, nurtured, coached (literally, especially the boys!), ministered to and encouraged us in so many ways!

I have concluded that many of my dearest friends in the past were given to my family and me for a particular chapter in our lives. We made friendships with some very special people during significant chapters in our lives, like those years I attended seminary, or during a family health crisis, and most certainly, the years we served as pastor and associate pastor in Illinois and Texas churches. 

Jesus regarded His disciples as friends. He also invited prospective followers, whom many critics of His day regarded as "sinners," into close relationship with Him. The Incarnation is a mystery to me and it's equally amazing to consider that Jesus raised the relational bar between Himself as Son of God and mere mortals through friendship. On the night before the cross, Jesus said to His inner circle, "You are my friends if you do what I command... I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you."  (John 15:14-15). 

I cannot imagine the depth of those revelations nor understand the spiritual weight and substance of those communications from the Heavenly Father to the Son of God. After all, the Lord declared, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are... my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9). And it further stirs my imagination that some of these thoughts were to be "made known to the disciples!" That's some of the reason that I confess to feeling a little uncomfortable regarding Jesus, my Lord and Savior, as a friend! It's like I'm trying to bring Him down to my level! And yet, He calls me friend!

In the last years, there has been a contemporary worship song that has done a lot to help many believers understand God's wonderful invitation to a relationship through His Son. Israel Houghton, a Christian music artist of our day, has written, Friend of God. This stirring worship song has been sung in many churches for the last fifteen years. Through its pulsing lyrics, Houghton inspires worshippers by adding these affirmations describing a child of God as His friend, “I am a friend of God. He calls me friend. God almighty! Lord of Glory! Creator of the Universe. You have called me friend!” Almighty! Lord! Creator! I am humbled that the transcendent God considers me a friend! 

I heard a person say one time that she was never going to be friends with another family living in her neighborhood.  When asked why she felt this way, she selfishly argued that just about the time they really began to bond with new neighbors, the family moved away. It's a fact that we all need friends and that friendships have to be nurtured. They require an investment of time and effort to maintain. Rather than avoiding relationships because we fear the pain of possible change and loss, it would seem more sensible for us to risk friendship even it ends up just a chapter in our lives and the lives of those we are befriending. 

After a couple of years experiencing social distancing and isolation, let's work on nurturing some of our casual relationships into genuine friendships in 2022. Join me in praying for neighbors, work associates, fellow church members and even those strangers we may meet while out and about. Decide to put yourself out there, and be friendly. God uses our lives to connect with others.  Being intentionally friendly is a blessing of giving and receiving. We know that close friendships may be lasting or for just a brief chapter of time, but their impact can continue for a lifetime!

In this New Year, work at being a good friend! You'll be blessed by befriending others!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent. 
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com 

Comments

  1. "It's like I'm trying to bring Him down to my level!" Isn't that Christmas; the Feast of the Incarnation? How confounding it is to know that the God of the Cosmos sought to enter into our human affairs from the vantage point of a vulnerable baby with parents who would soon become refugees. Thank you for celebrating the friendship between God and humans in the Christ. "Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel!" I love these lyrics from "Hark the Herald Angel Sing."

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    Replies
    1. Beautifully said, my friend! Glad you popped in with some eloquent wisdom!

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  2. Very timely for the Mooney family in this chapter of our lives.

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    1. Thanks, friend! Blessings in the New Year, Sunny!!

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