“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.” -- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
It’s been some time since I reflected on friendship, and I notice how much my thoughts have changed. I previously wrote about the gift of dear friends who know everything about us and love us regardless. I wondered aloud with you whether we love one another because of what we know: that we each in turn have made bad bargains, suffered needlessly over things that turned out to matter not so much, and sometimes suffered too little over the things that do.
We’re blessed if we have even one dear friend, that despite changes in geography that draw us apart, will be there when we need them. We’re grateful that when life unravels, there is someone in the world willing to hear our story without judgment. That is not to say that whatever we do is ok. Sometimes a friend risks the strain of any worthy friendship by telling the truth in love, having known our best self and wanting it for our sake. A true friend serves as both champion when encouragement is needful, and challenger when only a swift kick in the backside will do.
What changed is the relative isolation of a pandemic that made it harder for all of us to make new friends. Our old friends may still be there to be sure. However, if we want to enjoy deep and abiding friendships that endure the test of time, then we have to invest in new relationships.
Though we’ve re-engaged in life, we’re more cautious now. We’re less likely to strike up a conversation with someone we don’t know, to lean in, to take the time. We now have a tendency to get to the business at hand and move on. This is a dangerous move for our health and well-being. Research indicates consistently that those persons with a healthy, vibrant social network enjoy better health, endure challenges, and recover from loss more effectively than those who do not.
When Jesus said that greater love has no one than this, but to lay down one’s life for one’s friend, he knew this. The covenant to love one another as God loves us is precious and costly. Treating one another as beloved friends we do not yet know, requires taking risks at a time when we’re more reluctant to do so.
How gracious is our God, who gifts us with all things needful for abundant life, not the least of which are deep friendships old and new that endure over time. Is today the day to go make a friend?
Prayer: We pause in these moments to thank you, Holy One, for reminding us that we are beloved and cherished without proof, through the constancy and generosity of friends. Amen
God’s Grace, Mercy and Peace,
Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Senior Minister, The Community Church of Vero Beach