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November 8, 2012

You Get The Picture: True friendship takes work

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Befriending someone is one of the easiest ways we can grow and expand our understanding of the world around us.  It’s the quickest way we can impact someone’s life in a positive way, but often times it becomes a cumbersome load to carry when they begin to unload.

We’ve all had at one time or another a close circle of friends who seemed to have an unshakable steadfast bond.  In my close circle, not everyone was as friendly as a welcome mat, so I became the peacemaker.  As the peacemaker, I often spent quality time alone with both “sides” of the group to ease the divide.  

Of course, the priorities that each friend carried in life caused much of the divide, while jealousy of one another began to ferment through bits of gossip.  Because friends have an ability to influence and affect us, I began to carry their petty burdens like a backpack on the fickle road to affinity.

That road to closeness often times deviated or distracted me from my own goals.  My journey in life became second rate to their own ventures.  I put my schedule on hold to wait on their every beckoning call, moments of loneliness or boredom.  My patience allowed this to carry out for years until the talk behind closed doors manifested within the group, and the circle began to individualize.

As each of us moved further apart throughout college, I made an effort to keep in touch and visited when I could.  But when the time came when I needed a friend the most, needed guidance and direction, I received the most desolate reply — a dial tone.  The long burning flame of friendship was extinguished as soon as the tone sounded, and I withdrew my wick of contact.   

I realized I had carried their anxieties as if they were my own, but they were cautious to become involved with mine.  I began to feel abandonment, anger and sadness, but surprisingly felt the humbling embrace of grace.  I was freed from my cloudy definition of friendship and began to live.  It took years of acquaintances to realize, you may befriend many but you can only really know few.  But even then, they may fail you at your most vulnerable moments.

As I flipped through my Bible a week ago during my daily walk in faith, I was spoken to through the story of Jesus praying in Gethse-mane, within the book of Matthew.  He asked his closest disciples, truest friends, to sit, wait and watch out for him while he prayed full of sorrow.  As he returned to his friends they were sleeping, unwatchful and lethargic to the anxieties at hand.  

That story spoke volumes to me, and put my soul at rest.  Jesus spent much of his time with acquaintances, while he was still selective with who he allowed to be close to him.  He considered his closest friends those who embraced his cause.  I became evident that my first misstep in friendship has been that I never made sure those whom I let into my circle truly embraced my cause, or cares.  

The over abundance of “flaky” friendships in our culture today has influenced us to become wide open and shallow.  We seek friends for fun and end up with abandonment.  We have forgotten how to carry each other’s burdens and only wish to grumble about our own.  We need to stop cutting friends out of our lives just because we’re too busy to lend a listening ear or comforting embrace, but we also need to be cautious as to who we let into our inner circle.  

Friendship will not always be fun, but it’s rewarding when we weather the storm and begin to share life together.  True friendship plays out when it’s hard to stick around.  Those who give up their life for their friends, will know love — the greatest reward of all.

mmccrarey@sentinel-echo.com

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