I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. This is mainly because I am vividly aware of what a poor friend I have been towards my brothers and sisters over the years. I can get too self-absorbed at times, in fact most of the time. It doesn’t help that my work does not involve “colleagues” or “workmates”. An office environment is something I don’t have, and this means that my social contact is minimal. No matter how much I may berate and discourage social media as one’s primary form of social interaction, it’s pretty much the case for me. I am even getting used to hearing friends who I’ve met online comment on what a different person I am in real life. Almost everyone whose first encounter with me was online claims that I am not what they expected when we finally meet in person. This is both a good and a bad thing.
One of the main downsides of having such little “real” social life is that I am more susceptible to living life on my own terms. people who have workmates are often forced to learn some social skills by circumstances. For example, if you fall out or disagree with a workmate, you may often be compelled to reconcile your differences because the two of you need to work on a project together. Sometimes the reconciliation is never complete, but circumstances compel you to learn to tolerate and live with each other. That’s the stuff that real life and real friendship is made of. Real people, real relationships, real problems and real solutions. This is not often the case with my life. Since I work from my house (oftentimes in bed when I am feeling too lazy to get up), it means that I have more control over my life, my circumstances and my relationships. This is not a good thing.
I have learnt, over the years, that I need to learn how to let go of my life. I need to learn what it means to be dependent, to be tolerant, to swallow my pride and accept differences. I need to learn how to get along with those with those who don’t get me. I need to learn that there are other rules in relationships apart from my own. I need to learn what it means to sit on the passenger seat of my social life. I need to acknowledge the fact that I cannot just ignore that message, close that tab and delete that tweet if I am not getting my way. I need to learn what it means to work alongside someone I don’t agree with, walk alongside someone who is slower than me and live alongside someone who doesn’t care what I think about life. I need to be like Jesus.
When he began his ministry, at roughly the age of thirty, Jesus left home and hit the streets. He went about doing good, teaching and healing the sick. But he also went about making friends. He never once sat down and thought, “I am Jesus, those guys need to come to me,” or “they need me, I don’t need them”, or “I can do this better on my own”. No, even though all these statements are true of Christ, Jesus did not apply them to his own life. He went out, calling out to the different disciples, asking them to follow him. Those 12 guys were not just his students, they also became his friends. Good friends. He even used to attend weddings with them. Yet, those friends of Jesus were not quite like Jesus. They were needy, they were often immature, they were vastly ignorant and yes, they were sinners… while Jesus wasn’t. They always did things that they regretted. The words “I am sorry” always seemed to be uni-directional in their relationship with Jesus. Yet, Jesus tolerated them. He lived with them, went hungry with them, ate with them, suffered for them and eventually died for them. They may not all have been his friends (such as Judas), but He was a friend to them all.
I look at this picture, and then I look again at the picture of my own life. It is easy to blame my circumstances for my awkward social life. If its excuses, I have more than a dozen… from my personality to my professional circumstances, I have every reason to be socially awkward. It is not my fault, or is it? How many times have I deliberately ignored calls and texts from my friends, not because I had something better or more urgent to do, but simply because I didn’t feel like talking? How many times have I avoided the path of some friends primarily because I knew that our conversation will somehow lead to them needing something (read money) from me? How many times have I chosen to associate myself with certain friends because they had more money, more affluence and more clout? All of these leanings and tendencies reveal the corruption within my own heart; that I prefer what profits me and I avoid what takes away from me.
This isn’t the kind of person I desire to be, even though it is the person that I am and I always fight against. I want to be like Jesus, a go giver and not just a go-getter. I want to be a touch and grow friend, not just a touch and go friend. I desire to love those guys who are messed up, socially awkward, immature and legalistic. I want to learn how to embrace friends who have nothing to offer me, and cultivate friendships that will cost me money and time. I want to be like Jesus, a friend of sinners, losers and cheapskates. I want to be such a friend towards my needy and weak friends because Jesus has been that kind of friend towards me. He has not left me, even when our friendship was all about me taking and never giving. He has never snubbed me, even when I often ignored him in my comfortable moments. He has never left me or let go of me, even when I often turned away from him for my next momentary high.
I am aware that what I am praying for myself is something that my friends are also praying for themselves. I know that sometimes, no oftentimes, I let my hardheadedness and selfishness get in the way of healthy friendships. My immaturity, judgmental attitude and passive-aggressiveness often makes me unappealing and unapproachable. My legalistic tendencies often render me a killjoy. Sometimes I wish that my friends could also look past these things and simply take me in, loving me for me, despite of me. Yet, I am also aware that I am not willing to do the same towards others who are likewise.
At such times, it is comforting to remind myself that Jesus is the only true friend on this earth. He is the only faithful and continually selfless friend. It helps to remind myself that Jesus is my friend, and that my friend is not Jesus. This comforting truth leads me to repentance and gratitude. I repent of being a less-than-perfect friend. I am grateful that I will always have a more-than-perfect friend, Jesus Christ.
I press on to be a better friend, like Jesus, to sinners, like me.
For the fame of His name,