"Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends." – John 15:13-14 (The Message)
At my own popularity peak, most of my friendships were not mutual but transactional, based on what I could do for other people. Influence made me funnier, friendlier and more likable.
But during an unplanned detour off Success Street, those friendships faded fast. That included many people I had worked with, most people I had mentored, and pretty much everyone who has ever asked me for help getting published.
Next to go were the friendships built on enjoying each other's company. I'll admit my newly-acquired off-road personality had something to do with that. Apparently, spending time with me when I am suspicious, sad, self-centered, and self-pitying is not particularly enjoyable.
When life got better and my mood improved, I began to hear from both groups again. Tentative little messages trickled in, "hoping to reconnect," "now that you're doing better," and "have landed on your feet."
"You were missed," they told me, as if I had called in sick to a family reunion, disappeared on a mountaineering expedition or stubbornly refused to use my psychic powers to respond to their many telepathic invitations.
I appreciated their kind notes. I kept them all, in a folder marked "Friends You Can Count On When Times Are Good."
I don't need a folder to keep track of the friends who stuck with me. They are too small to number and too enormous in grace. Even when I thought that God had dropped me, their stubborn love became my evidence to the contrary. I aspire to be that kind of friend one day.
I would not wish the insights of isolation on anyone. But should you ever find yourself out in the far distant parking lot of your own social life, know this: You will learn important things, about your own failings, about the failings of others, and about the infallible God who will not let you go. Put your trust there, where it belongs.
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Thou wilt find a solace there.
(Hymn text by Joseph Scriven)
Lillian Daniel's new book Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don't Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting is now available for purchase, but you can hear it all for free at 1st Congregational Church of Dubuque, Iowa.