Thankful for True Friendship
Everything I know about true friendship, I learned from Lori.
I wish you could meet her. She's the sort of person who makes everything more fun, just by being there. She's an unfussy beauty, with auburn hair and freckles, and I've charted the last half of my life by the fixed point of her friendship.
We met 25 years ago, in a "young-marrieds" Bible study. Our husbands shared a love of fishing, so Lori and I got to know each other, standing side-by-side in a Rocky Mountain river, casting for trout.
I remember those pre-dawn mornings, Mark and I drinking coffee in the tiny kitchen of our married-student housing apartment, listening for the squeaky fender of Greg and Lori's Maverick to announce their arrival at our front door, fishing poles ready.
A real estate developer in the making, Greg flipped houses before it was a topic on home improvement shows. Lori and I painted countless walls in countless living rooms during the early years of our friendship.
As time went on, we raced our way through every fashion trend of the running boom, from baggy cotton sweats to lycra tights. We did aerobics to the songs of The Pointer Sisters. We survived "big bangs" and body perms.
We raised our kids together. In fact, when they were older, they told us how shocked they were to discover that our families weren't related - "just friends."
I knew Lori's kitchen as well as my own, and we ate and laughed around her table so many times, I felt like all of her houses belonged to me, too.
When my husband's military commitments called for a move to Washington, D.C., then Latin America, our friendship might have ended. But Lori's brand of loyalty doesn't bow to separations of time and distance. She sent us off with a photo album chronicling our friendship to that point, and left plenty of empty pages for the times to come.
We've filled those pages, many times over, and Lori has proven herself my lifelong friend.
Not too many years ago, I watched Lori walk with uncommon grace through the aftermath of Greg's death in a car accident. In the months that followed, she grieved, held her girls close, worked her own job, managed all the decisions of Greg's real estate business, and paid careful attention to the needs of his family members, who were grieving, too.
I treasure all the times we talked, cried, and laughed. Along the way, she taught me that wisdom has little to do with age, but more with character, and that humility is the prerogative of quiet strength, the kind that doesn't have to prove itself to anyone.
When the time came, I watched Lori's signature grace guide her through a second courtship and subsequent marriage to a wonderful man, one who sees in her what all of us do who have known her for very long: a genuine friend.
So many of our human connections are superficial. During his short life on earth, Jesus spoke frankly about the shallow nature of those relationships. He knew that people's loyalty to him often ran no deeper than a free meal of fish and bread, or the reality-show prospect of some miraculous spectacle.
But for Jesus, the concept of friendship was deadly serious.
"I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you," he told his disciples. "And here is how to measure it - the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends."
A chilling statement, in light of his later actions. Are we willing to lay down our lives, literally or figuratively, for even one person? Not to mention our 300 "friends" on Facebook? I doubt it. Our present-day, digital context has diluted the word friend to little more than a marketing hook.
"I no longer call you servants," Jesus continued, "because a master doesn't confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me."
I marvel at what those statements really mean. I've held nothing back, Jesus seems to say. I've told you things that, until now, only my Father and I knew. I'm about to face a challenge you can't comprehend, to go where you cannot follow, and yet I'm taking the time to tell you this: You are my friends.
And one more thing. "You didn't choose me," Jesus concluded. "I chose you."
Mind-blowing. We could contemplate friendship with Christ our entire lives, and still not get to the bottom of it.
As my best friend who lives on this planet, I'm glad Lori chose me. True friendship is precious, beyond knowing. Those who offer it are rare. If we recognize and appreciate it, we can count ourselves wise. If we take it for granted, even for a moment, we prove ourselves the worst sort of fools.
So don't wait. Cultivate friendship, today, so it can flourish in your life during the coming years. If you have a friend like Lori, open all your windows and shout, "Thank you!" until the neighbors come over to check on your mental condition.
Better yet, let that person know how glad you are that she chose you.
And while I'm thinking of it, I'll tell Lori, again.