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 1 of a three part series from Amber. Access the rest of the series here:
God Loves a Crowded House | Active Participation (coming 4/22) | The Gift of God (coming 4/29)
I have been a student of friendship from the time I was a little kid. It was inevitable, I think, because I grew up in a military family and my parents and my brother and I shared more holiday meals with pilots and intelligence officers than we spent with our extended family. One Easter we crowded our duplex on Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii with airmen and women and their families who couldn’t make the trip home to the mainland. Those of us under the age of ten ate our ham and deviled eggs sitting on the front stairs, every chair and sofa cushion and spot on the living room floor claimed by an adult who didn’t want to be alone for the holiday.
And so I watched my parents create homes in our base houses that were open and available for people. There was always a seat for the single enlisted guy, the divorced officer, the wife whose husband was deployed. Even if the mashed potatoes burned and someone had to keep washing silverware so we never ran out of forks, my parents offered people a place for us all to be family, even if it was just for a day, even if it was for only one meal. And from my seat on the stairs, I saw how much that kind of friendship made being in the world a little less hard.
Twenty years later, an adult in my thirties, I know friendship—when it’s really friendship—has a life-saving quality about the edges that is so much more than just making life a little less hard.
When it’s really friendship, when you’ve dropped into those deeper places of knowing each other and you’ve trusted your hearts to one another’s care, then it becomes something sacred. It becomes about the experience of grace, and it becomes about carrying each other’s burdens. It becomes about self-sacrifice and love without conditions. It becomes about vulnerability and confession and risk being cradled in hope and trust and kindness. It becomes about God making himself known through every hug, high five, and hard conversation. And so when it’s really friendship, it becomes about taking each other right into the presence of Jesus.
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” —Mark 2:1–5
My Bible study group meets on Tuesday nights. We’ve had some lulls, of course, over holidays and when one of the women has had a baby, but basically we’ve been an “us” for seven years. We’ve walked each other through the worst and the best that life has to offer. We’ve celebrated new jobs and new business ventures, and we’ve mourned deaths and moments of deep personal change that felt like deaths. And when we need prayer, we send each other emails and texts at all hours, knowing that women receiving them will start praying the second the words meet their eyes. We have lived life side by side for almost a decade—messy, chaotic, changing, uncertain, wonderful, beautiful life.
And when I made a hard decision a couple of years ago to leave my home church in a haze of disillusionment and distrust, I was banged up and hurting. Life in that season felt particularly brutal and I was hard on anyone who claimed to love Jesus and the gospel, including my friends in Bible study. But those women, those real friends, made space for me on Tuesday nights and chose to love me even though I was venomous and ugly. They believed I would know God more deeply on the other side of my questions, even if I didn’t get clear answers. They knew that eventually the sarcasm would soften and I would experience joy again.
I was in a place where I couldn’t get to Jesus because my head and my heart were crowded with pain and disappointment and sadness and anger. And when I couldn’t get to Jesus on my own, my friends got me there with their kindness, love, and faithfulness.
I think God loves a crowded house. I think he loves a house packed with lonely people who have gathered for a meal, desperate people hungry to hear from him. I think he loves a house full of women meeting for Bible study, having honest conversations. I think he really loves it when we make every effort to ensure everyone has a place.
If this is true, and this is something God loves, then I think we all have to do a better job of being friends. We need to open ourselves and our homes to God and to each other, and know that something holy is happening when we do. And if we can do this, if we can see sacredness in friendship, then we’ll take care of each other differently, better, because our aim will be getting to Jesus together.
This Part 1 of a three part series. Access the rest of the series here:
God Loves a Crowded House | Active Participation | The Gift of God