“You are not a good friend,” said my friend Regi as we sat in Starbucks.
“Why do you say that?” I asked. What I really wanted to say was, “Screw you!”
“You never call. You don’t stay in touch with me. You don’t drop by to just catch up. You don’t care. In short, you don’t do any of the things that I would consider good friends do for each other,” he explained.
I walked away from the conversation a little miffed. What right does he have to tell me whether or not I am a good friend? Who gave him the authority to define friendship? I think of him as a good friend, and if I don’t meet his definition of a good friend, then it’s his problem, not mine.
As you can tell, Regi’s accusation really bothered me. When I’m convicted like this, I start grinding on it and praying about it. Then an answer came with clarity. A logical and defendable position I could take with Regi.
Friendship is not defined by you. Friendship is defined by the other person you call a friend.
I got back together with Regi. Same coffee shop. Same conversation, except this time I was talking and he was listening. I had thought this one through, and I had him on his heels. It worked like a charm. I was right and he was wrong and that was that.
There Was a Problem
Although my position was clear, defensible and logical, I still didn’t feel like I was a good friend. To this day, I believe my definition of how friendship actually works is correct. Here’s the problem. My definition of friendship wasn’t nearly as good a definition as Regi’s. I would rather have a friend like Regi than have a friend like me.
This conversation with Regi took place over three years ago. It still haunts me. This definition of friendship is lurking in my subconscious. Sitting there. Grinding away. And then I distanced myself from my best friend, my creator.
Every morning for the last few years, I wake up, get a cup of coffee and go into my office. I say, “Good morning, Jesus. Please open my mind and heart to your Word so I might hear from you today.”
I then continue my Bible reading plan where I left off the day before. Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, it doesn’t matter. God always has a fresh message for me.
After my reading for the day, I take time to be quiet and pray to God. To talk to Him. Listen to Him. Praise Him, intercede for the needs of people in my life, thank Him, get ideas from Him, argue with Him, and ultimately submit.
About a Month Ago
I stopped this morning routine. I redefined my friendship with Jesus. Instead of seeking time with Him daily, I would check in occasionally, sometimes with a quick prayer at meals.
For some reason, I decided to lose this discipline of friendship. I became self-centered. Our friendship was what I wanted it to be and not what He wanted it to be.
This is the God who said to me through the verses in Jeremiah 29:11-14, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.’”
In the midst of this intentional separation from Jesus, he was always on my mind. I knew I should be closer to Him, to be calling on Him, to be in a conversation, but I just didn’t do it. But why?
Because friendship takes time. And I wanted to spend my time on me. I wanted to be doing what I wanted to be doing when I wanted to do it.
Because friendship requires effort. This is effort I could be spending on me or Kathy or the kids and not with Him. Others were more important than my friendship with Jesus.
Because friendship demands submission. I wanted to be in control and not have to listen to Him. I didn’t want to spend my time listening and conversing. I wanted to strike out and do as I pleased.
Regi Is Right
I am not a good friend. I am just another person in his life, an acquaintance. I am an acquaintance to many people in my life, including, most recently, God.
This morning, I decided to spend time with Him again. To be a friend. It was an intentional decision. I took the time to make the effort to submit to my friend Jesus. It was a great start to my day. He filled me up as He was happy to hear from me.
Kathy made an observation about me a few months ago. This is the woman who told me in church on Christmas Eve that this was our thirty-ninth Christmas together. I have learned she knows me better than I know myself.
She told me, “You are friendly with people you will never see again. People you will never have to have a relationship with. You avoid real friendships.”
As I enter 2016 and approach my sixty-third birthday, I have a new goal. To be a friend as Jesus is my friend and as Regi defines friendship. Time, effort, submission. This is friendship.
To be a friend to others, I must be a friend to Jesus. He is the author of friendship.
Also published on Medium.