Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. - Proverbs 27:17
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. - Galatians 6:2
As the majority of folks working with us this summer are guys, these thoughts have a masculine audience in mind. I think for the few gals reading this, my thoughts are still relevant--just filter them in pink.
Friendships are interesting things. Seemingly, they just grow and develop--often without our giving them much thought. In elementary school, our friends were our playmates, maybe our cousins... our neighbors (perhaps just the ones we really liked for our own childish reasons... maybe because they didn't beat us up… maybe our birthdays were in the same week... maybe our parents were friends, too). Perhaps we sat together on the school bus. Maybe we went to the same church. Regardless, we probably didn't spend a lot of time deliberating over who we were going to choose as our best friends. These friendships just kind of happened.
In high school, our friendships may have been a little more focused. Perhaps we played a sport together or we had AP classes together (AP History is an ordeal through which you need a friend or two to survive). We spent hours together with a game console and our favorite game. Our parents probably had a little less control over the guys with whom we spent our time, at least outside our homes. But we probably didn't spend a lot of time thinking about why we were friends. We just were. And somewhere between research papers and soccer games, we might have noticed girls, and even had a few that we would call friends.
Now, perhaps, you are at college. If you are pursuing Christ, you might be more aware now of friends who are bad influences, or who are good influences. You might be seeing the results of too much socializing. And not just with your best mates. You are likely intentional in choosing some female friends; after all, you are supposed to find your wife at college, right? I think we guys do well to be intentional in our pursuit of a life's mate, but we should be just as intentional in the other significant relationships in our lives: our close friends, the brothers in Christ who really are that.
With whom can you share the deep down stuff you have never told anyone else on the planet? With whom have you shared your struggles with impure thoughts, doubts, or theological questions? Who do you ask to pray for you when you failed again? Who in your life can tell you that you are not making a good choice? Or that you have sin in your life with which you need to deal? The friendships to fill these needs don't just happen. You aren't going to share the hurts you have kept bottled up for years with just anyone. You're definitely not going to confess the actions, words, or inaction you wish you could undo to just anyone. So, if you aren't being intentional with these friendships now, when will you start?
I daresay, a word we don’t often associate with our friendships is COMMITMENT, but, I think it is necessary for the friendships through which God will work in our lives. Speaking from experience, one of my closest friendships, and one through which God is accomplishing much in my life, reached a point where commitment to the friendship was essential.
Back in April of 2011, following God’s leading--because I really was done with discipleship and mentoring at the time, but that's another story--I offered myself in the capacity of mentor to an MK (missionary kid) who was attending Liberty, working on a Computer Science degree (in the Honors Program), and working in the campus computer lab. This MK has a South African accent and built CloudCard’s HelperBot--the Ryan you might hear more tenured folks at SharpTop mention. Over the next four years, what was a very intentional and multi-faceted relationship grew from a Paul and Timothy relationship into a Paul and Barnabas one. Four years in, we had gone deep with the things we shared with each other. We hit a point where going deeper meant sharing things we had never even verbalized with another human being before. At this point we kind of made a pact. Backward motion was not really an option. Only pressing on. And with the understanding that whatever expectation I had of him with regard to the trust we had developed, he had every right to expect of me. Basically, a “Brother I commit my love to you” kind of deal. And God continues to work through our friendship. My being at SharpTop at all is evidence of that.
I have been blessed in having a bit more than a handful of friendships that are intentional, where there is commitment. Friendships that were born out of discipleship/mentoring relationships or ministry partnerships. What does commitment look like in these relationships? Well, sometimes requests for very specific prayer at 3:00 AM. Sometimes answering questions with a heart of love, but an answer the questioner may not want to hear. Sometimes you forget about entertainment and you spend your time praying together. Sometimes committing to pray daily for your friend’s marriage, family, ministry, struggle. Maybe another Jonathan and David?
It is our prayer at SharpTop that you might forge some friendships like this while working with us. You might have noticed the emphasis on relationships! There are no coincidences in the Kingdom. Where it appears God is working, follow His leading. Be intentional. Commit.