What qualities and characteristics exemplify friendship to you? Being a friend is fairly simple; being a good friend is often difficult. Friendship is something that we are all hungry for. In this series, Amber Wackford shares what she feels are essential elements of good friendship, spiritual friendship.

This Part 3 of a three part series from Amber. Access the rest of the series here:

God Loves a Crowded House | Active Participation | The Gift of God


 

I’m sure she doesn’t remember the conversation, it happened so long ago, but I sure do. Jesse called after church to explain why she avoided me at the service. Her voice was firm enough to let me know she was serious and soft enough to inform me we were going to talk this out to the end. “I can’t stand being around you,” she started. “Whoever this person is that’s full of sarcasm and anger, this isn’t you. I know you have a lot going on right now and all the reason in the world to be angry, but I miss my friend. Can we get her back?”

 

I sat on my porch, my friend on the other end of the phone, and I sobbed. Because when Jesse said the words “this isn’t you,” I knew she had told me a truth I couldn’t see on my own. And when she asked, “Can we get her back?” I knew she wasn’t leaving me alone in the mess of figuring out how to unpack that truth.

 

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I cried because I was being offered the gift of real friendship. Jesse took a risk and said a hard thing, but that wasn’t the end of it. She could have said her piece and bowed out, but instead she said her piece and stepped closer. Because that’s what real friends do. This kind of accountability is the gift of spiritual friendship.

 

This kind of accountability is the gift of spiritual friendship.

 

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Novelist Anna Quindlen says, “Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings.” As far as I’m concerned, there is no better way to talk about accountability done well.

 

 “Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings.”

 

Jesus gives us an example of offering a hard truth and a soft landing when He sits with the Samaritan woman at the well. Right away, the differences between the two are clear. The first question out of the woman’s mouth is, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Jesus, in all of his maleness and with all of his Jewishness and given the cultural norms of his time, could have justified avoiding this woman, but he chose to build a relationship despite their differences. And with that, Jesus shows us the prerequisite for accountability—connection.

 

This is not to say that Jesus shies away from telling this woman the truth, either. At one point in their conversation he requests that she call her husband, which she admits she cannot do because she has no husband. And Jesus calls her on it, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband”. That is her reality, her truth, and he is quick to identify it. But this hard truth is not the starting place for their relationship. He doesn’t sit down at the well and rub the woman’s nose in her failures. That isn’t the point, nor should it be the point of accountability.

 

Rather, Jesus sits down and starts with a question, “Will you give me a drink?” He’d been walking with the disciples, who’d left Him in search of food elsewhere in town, and he needed someone to pull water from the well because he had nothing. No bucket, no ladle, no way to quench his thirst without a helping hand from this woman with a colorful past. So Jesus establishes himself as a non-threat. He builds a rapport with her, talking about something as innocuous as water. Of course, we know it’s not that innocent because he’s Jesus and he’s really looking after her soul. But it is exactly because he’s connected with her—proven Himself to be non-threatening and kind, and to care for her more than he cares for his reputation—that he can later sit with her and talk about her husbands and her current way of being and hold her accountable to another way.

 

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The hard truth of the Samaritan woman’s story is that she tried and failed to fill the need to be loved with relationship after relationship. She tried and failed to find value with lover after lover. She tried and failed to find a sense of belonging with husband after husband. Under her own power and in her own best efforts, she tried and failed to quench her strongest thirsts.

 

But Jesus offers her a soft landing even before that truth comes out. He provides the means by which all of her needs can be met—to be loved, to be valued, to belong. He communicates to her that her currents circumstances don’t have to be her forever circumstances. Jesus offers a way for her to quench all of her thirsts.

 

He provides the means by which all of her needs can be met—to be loved, to be valued, to belong.

 

And he does it no more clearly than when he says to the woman, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water”.

 

This is what we have to hold in our heads when we’re thinking of the place accountability has in a spiritual friendship. There should always be the freedom to tell the truth, knowing that on the other side is going to be a soft place to land. Because we should always be helping each other to see the gift of God.

 


 

 

This Part 3 of a three part series from Amber. Access the rest of the series here:

God Loves a Crowded House | Active Participation | The Gift of God