In the year of our Lord 2020, the year when many of us struggled with pandemic-induced loneliness, I've had the chance to reflect on friendship and my own loneliness and concluded that there is no lasting friendship without unconditional love.
I remember sometime in the middle of May and June, when the novelty of being home alone with family wore off, and I started longing for connection beyond my walls. I wondered whom I could visit in the middle of a pandemic and not feel like an unwelcome germ-carrying intruder. I wondered who was willing to risk catching Covid-19 to check up on me. At some point, in the middle of the isolation, I actually felt that many of my relationships were shallow and conditional, built for the good times and for sight.
I'm never more faced with my inadequacies, quacks and stinking flesh as when I consider my relationships with friends. Over the years I have lost so many friends and I owe it all to my stinking flesh habits - pride, unforgiveness, envy, competition, inadequacy, unwillingness to go the extra mile or take the high road, being self focused, not persevering when our friendship is tested (aka when I'm the one always calling), not being attentive to people's emotional needs, loving conditionally, being impatient, holding grudges, being easily offended...
I have expected, even prayed, for friends who would love me unconditionally but been unwilling or unable to do the same for others.
God is dealing with this area of my flesh.
- That in considering friendships I will not consider my rights first, my needs first. Wouldn't I rather be wronged for the sake of peace? Rights, what rights if Christ emptied himself of his glory for our sake?
- That I will value others before me. This takes the wings off any spirit of competition, envy and selfish ambition. Other people can be important, can shine, can do better than me and it is fine because we are not in competition.
- That I will do to others what I would wish they did to me. Do I wish to be called, thrown a surprise birthday party, visited, included in holiday plans? I'm I doing it for my friends? When I start focusing on the needs of others, I deflate the air out of my pity party.
- That I will deal with friendship from a place of compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience and humility. Compassion to understand that we are all human dealing with our own struggles and we fail and will fail even those who love us. Patience when the results don't come as fast. Patient to actually care. Humility to die to my embarassment, disappointments and hurts and continually reach out or ask for help.
- That I will keep no grudges. So help me God. Every slate has been wiped clean.
- That I will lighten someone's load any way I can. My love will be practical. I will learn to be the friend who shows up at 8am with breakfast because a friend needs a shoulder at 8am. I will be the friend who lends the 5k (or 100k) cos kids gotta eat. I will be the friend who goes on a fast on behalf of a friend. Their burdens will be my burdens, their joys mine.
- That I will not be self seeking but learn to focus on others. I've been the one who needs a friend and got into the relation with a "what am I getting out of this" mentality. I wish to be the giver, the unconditional lover, the one who never fails.
Lofty list, I know. But I have learnt this season that I can love people because Christ is working in me. He can love people through me. If Christ loves people unconditionally I can do the same because his life is at work within me.
It's a step of faith. It's me crucifying my flesh. It's me saying "Lord, make me less self focused; open my eyes to the needs of my friends; teach me to love them the way they need to be loved right now."
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV