“What is the secret of your life?” asked Mrs. Browning of Charles Kingsley; “Tell me, that I may make mine beautiful too?”
He replied, “I had a friend.” (William C. Gannet)
Last week I got an interesting email, informing me that there would be a breakfast meeting of the Mobile Mafia in Orlando for everybody who happened to be there for the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Mobile Mafia, aka Wolfepack, are a loosely-structured group of men in ministry who came up under the leadership of Fred Wolfe, who remains in every sense of the word our pastor, mentor, and father-in-the-ministry to this day.
“Have a nice time,” I thought, as I dismissed the email as irrelevant to me. I hadn’t been to a Southern Baptist Convention since 1994.
Immediately after that, I got another email from the same source – my friend Wayne.
I don’t know if you would be able but if you can get down to Orlando, I have room for you to stay. I have a 3-BR condo there in Orlando that sleeps 8. Me, Len, John and Rick are going to be staying there. You will be welcome if you can come. I think it would be good for you. We would love to have you. Let me know.
“No way,” I thought, as just out of curiosity I checked the last-minute Southwest Airlines prices and schedule.
“Way,” Southwest said.
I have to tell you that it’s been a pretty dicey season for friendship lately. And in some of those times, it has been more convenient just to assume I didn’t have any.
Terribly inaccurate, mind you. Just convenient.
So when Wayne said, “Can you come?” and Southwest said, “Don’t blame us if you decide not to,” I decided, What the heck? I’m in.
And for a couple of days, I was reminded again of the incredible worth of a genuine friend.
Iron to Iron
Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).
Ever since I was a freshman in high school, this group of people, all of whom are a few years older than me, have been instrumental in sharpening my life. They get me to think. They get me to talk, even when I don’t want to. They get me to take action (Rick is famous for “Let me tell you what you need to do”).
True friends help you understand yourself more clearly. You may think you know yourself. Without friends, you’re wrong. The “face-to-face” nature of friendship – even friendship at a distance – serves as an incredibly clear mirror of your character, strengths, gifts, and areas where growth and change are needed.
True friends ask quality questions. They cut past the niceties and don’t just accept “fine” as your final answer. When they ask how you are, they want an answer where your countenance matches your words. What people in Recovery call “rigorous honesty” is the staple of friendship when it’s the real deal.
If you have somebody who loves you enough to go face-to-face with you, even when you’d prefer to hide or wear a mask to cover your “warts,” I hope you recognize how greatly your life is abounding.
Honor the incredible worth of a friend.
Sweetness in Counsel
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, to a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend (Proverbs 27:9).
True friendship brings its own version of sweetness. Just when we think we can make it on our own, we run into situations in which we’re at a loss.
When we lose our way, a friend brings new direction. We call that counsel.
When we lose the will to take action, a friend brings renewed resolve. We call that encouragement.
In fact, that is the difference between a true friend and an imposter. A friend’s encouragement has the same affect on your relationship as oil and perfume has on the heart – a “sweet fragrance” that makes us feel validated. True friends have a way of convincing us that no matter how we’ve screwed up or lost our way, there still is a way.
And here’s the really sweet thing about these particular friends, as well as other true friends in my life. Their “counsel” doesn’t require a “counseling session.” It’s in the process of sharing meals, praying for each other, remembering hilarious old times, and talking about life in general that the fragrance of the oil and perfume begins to penetrate wilted souls.
If you have someone who is a light in your darkness, and who refuses to accept defeat, exhaustion, discouragement or failure as your final answer, I hope you can see what a treasure you have.
Drink deeply of the incredible worth of a friend.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).
Friends make you stronger. Sometimes they take the form of a drill sergeant. Sometimes a good doctor or surgeon. Sometimes friends are like an effective teacher. But the common element, regardless of form, is faithfulness.
Bottom line: My friends (and yours) are loyal. And somehow in the relationship, they make it about you.
True friends always look out for your best interest. And make no mistake about it: sometimes that hurts. But here’s where you get to choose: would you rather be kissed by Judas (and sold out later), or told the truth by somebody who loved you too much to let you be a fool?
As I write this, I’m in the air again, headed for home. And I’m heading home with more courage. More confidence. More direction. And – dare I say it? – a merrier heart.
These men aren’t my only friends, but they are among the oldest. Truth is, I am blessed beyond measure. But if I was ever stupid enough to wonder if somewhere there was someone who would come charging in when the rest of the world walked away, once again they have put that fear to rest.
If you have somebody who will relentlessly pursue your best interest, refuse to abandon you, and tell you the truth in love, I hope you can see how really… really… wealthy you are.
Bow your head and give thanks to God… for the incredible worth of a friend.