Thursday, March 20, 2014

Random Thoughts on Why Friends Matter

I've thought a lot about friends recently. Maybe it's because family is distant and not as accessible as our local friends. Maybe it's because I put more energy into people within closer proximity. There are an assortment of reasons but they come down to a few, key, defining points that I'd like to share.

In the absence of family that can reach us within an hour and share our heartache, our successes and triumphs, friends have a way of just being there when you need them most. We have family friends that we spend an inordinate amount of time with just laughing, swimming, hanging out, having dinner, camping, daring and the list could go on. Conversation never ends even when it would seem like it should. Nights linger on when mornings come too early. Being there for our friends is important, even when it requires scampering off at midnight to trash someone's front lawn with questionable quotes or cane a beloved family's tree during Christmas. Needs are interpreted and usually hi-jinks turn into needs as we find fellowship with one another. Being there when blessings need to be administered on the spot, whether within minutes of each other's homes or during closure to parties. Being there for move ins and move outs. Being there for kids' events, couple times away, babysitting and temple attendance. Whatever the event, being there for friends is just what we do.

Friends listen, no matter how difficult the conversation. Sometimes the topic is way off in left field and what is being expressed may seem so mundane or other times inappropriate, yet we listen and encourage each other to share. A part of our soul is expressed, entrusted, given away and enlarged when we listen. It's not an easy trait and for some it comes more easily than others. True friends try to listen even if their own comprehension or context is askew.  By nature, I'm a listener. Just put me in a room full of friends like this last weekend and I'll sit back and just soak it all in. I'm not one to contribute much in larger groups, especially sense my story telling usually drones on. But give me a chance to listen, to understand and relate and I'm all over it. In larger settings, I find myself pairing off, hiding out in a corner and chatting one-on-one. Last Fri night was a classic example as a highly intellectual and complex-by-nature friend shared some really cool historical, astronomical and philosophical concepts to me at a Spring Break pool party during dinner. It was just the two of us and I loved soaking it all in just as much as he enjoyed teaching and sharing. Listening becomes so vital to friendships that if not done properly, the wrong message is interpreted, assumptions are made and confusion sets in. Taking a step back to understand clearly can be a gift.

Friends forgive and offer forgiveness freely. I've offended so many friends in the past and likely do it often today that I'm completely overwhelmed by the grace offered through forgiveness, especially by those that do so liberally. I have friends that deny others forgiveness and in their denial wallow in self pity, self righteousness and ultimately drag themselves down into misery. I question their concept of friendship as someone that is loving, kind and a true friend opens their hearts to forgive despite the personal pain they are called to endure.

Friends lift and are lifted. At the end of last week, our Spring Break, my lovely wife Rebecca spent a few days over at favorite friend's place laughing, giggling, sharing, over-sharing, and having a great time. She came away rejuvenated, feeling wonderful and I would expect the same was true for our friend. I felt the same at their home on Friday night as three couples and our kids played "No Rules Basketball," a raucous game of, well, no rules. Obviously, there are certain boundaries that friends keep, but physical fouling and cheating on the hoop are not in said boundaries. When a group of friends is dying of laughter, exhaustion, water soaked lungs, cuts, scrapes, bruises (some from the game itself) and asking for more, can anyone deny they are being uplifted? Inclusion is a form of lifting and I'm so grateful my family has been blessed by these dear friends.

I was recently lifted by my dear friends when they broke into our home during our trip to Seattle. They left motivational and uplifting notes throughout our home and I couldn't help but feel cheered up, slightly violated (but in a good way), definitely loved and cared for. The visual reminder that my friends cared enough to spend time trashing the place was very much appreciated.

Friends love and understand how to love. Expressions of love come in many forms. When I enter the home of the Waldens and Dan greets me with a huge smile, a huge manly hug, a handshake that says, "Hello my friend," I know I'm loved. Of course, it's best when he comes home and finds me soaking in his hot tub with our family and he, acting irritated with his lovely wife Lindsay, simply states, "Well, I would have come home sooner had I known 'Big Sexy' was going to be here." How do I feel anything but loved? Friends don't have to be outside of family and love can be expressed within. I so appreciate hearing my kids talk about their siblings as their best friends and see the look of love on their faces as they're kind with one another, and at times even serve each other. Love is a listening ear, a kind word, a look in the eye that shares empathy and deep understanding. It's a giggle when it's inappropriate, a snort, a tear and a heart that sinks when tough times collide with hopeful hearts. Love can be expressed on group texts over pictures that make us laugh, are embarrassing, should never be shared but likely are anyway and we can collectively refer back to moments of self deprecation.

Love is daring one another to do something silly (chest carvings and messages), be better, rise above our fears and make each laugh and be entertained.  The love of a friend is priceless and one of life's most cherished possessions.

While family is life's greatest gift, eternal in nature and part of God's great eternal plan, friends compliment the structure of the family and at times provides the needed relief family cannot always offer. Since my family is spread throughout the country, friends have become my surrogate family and I'm ever so grateful for incredible friends that bless me daily.

What about friends is a blessing to you?
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