Friends (part one)

“Where’s anyone who cares about me? The world’s lousy, no good. If I’d had my life to live over again, I would’ve done things a little different. I would’ve had more friends.” Ty Cobb

I want to be rich in friends more than rich in just about anything else I can be rich in. Anne Lamott

When I became a black hole of neediness, I was tempted to isolate myself from people, but instead, spurred by grace, I ran toward them. I stayed real close to my pit crew of friends and they pulled into me. For the first time in my life I could contribute absolutely nothing to anyone else. As much as I hate being the sole beneficiary in a relationship, I had to temporarily surrender to it and let my friends out-give me. None of them batted an eye at this new, albeit temporary, arrangement – and that’s because I have great friends. They literally buoyed me when I was sinking.

I don’t do “needy” very well. For my entire adult life I’m the guy that helps other people with their neediness, and it’s humbling to be the one buried in needs. Humiliating is what it was at first. But I had little choice. Receive help from my friends or suffer alone. Eventually the Spirit illuminated the route from humiliation to humility. The path – as far as I know, the only path – is the cross. The way from humiliated to humbled is by dying to my self-conscious embarrassment. Though it’s the most direct route, in no way is it the easiest or the most comfortable. I travel this way only a fraction of the time.

I’ve already mentioned a few of the things my exquisite companions did for me during my bleakest of times. There was Bob who let me rant at God without shoving me out of his pickup on the freeway. Mike convinced me that I wasn’t supposed to take an indefinite excursion to Mexico. Robert gave me anytime access to his beach house when I needed to get my head together. Mark and Trevor and Ron and Jim and Dan and Brian and Mike and Ed and a bunch of others, with shockingly fortuitous timing, called and talked me off the ledge. These God-sends spoke hope to me on dozens of occasions. I can’t begin to recount the number of people who have told me that they pray for me everyday – everyday! – and have kept up their vigil for the last five years. “I feel the effect of those prayers,” I always say in response. “I really do! Thank you.”

I’ve already spoken about my friends that have sent me money with the most staggering timing. Others have sent me cards, letters, and emails saying things that only the Spirit could’ve prompted them to write. After reading a card or hanging up from a God-sent call I routinely retreat to my room to cry pints of grateful tears. I’m genuinely amazed that he’s given me such helpful fellow travellers.

My immune system is fragile and so I tend to get sick more frequently these days. During one of my bouts of pneumonia Steve and Ann came from Pacifica to my apartment in San Francisco with three boxes filled with food. The homemade soup and a dozen eggs that I’d consented to thankfully accept morphed into groceries, casseroles, and baked goods that lasted for two weeks. There was love in every morsel.

Almost everyday for several months I needed rides to Stanford Hospital (thirty-five miles away) for treatments and tests during the transplant. Each ride was a labor of love as a friend would get me there, walk me into the hospital (I was pretty frail), and then wait indefinitely for me to be released, often several hours later. Several times, after waiting for hours, word would get back to them in the waiting room that I had to be admitted, so they’d return home without me.

If I were to start any more churches, which I avoid like a bad cold, I’d call them “Friends.” I like the name because it’s what a church is – friends with God and with each other. My kids thought calling it that would be a bad idea because people would confuse it with the TV show by the same name. I told Rebecca that not everyone in the world has all of the episodes of “Friends” memorized like she does. I still think it’s a good idea — for some other church planter!

I’ve come to the conclusion that life is pretty simple – it’s just about friendship. God created us so he’d have someone with whom to share his friendship. We’re supposed to love him more than anything and then love each other as much as we love ourselves. When put that way, doesn’t it sound simple? Actually, it is unbelievably simple. I’m not saying it’s easy. Easy and simple are not nearly the same thing. For instance, you probably have to get up and go to work tomorrow. It’s pretty simple. But I can’t say that it will be easy. Most likely it won’t be. That’s why they call it “work.” It’s not easy to be a good friend to God or to one another all the time, but it is simple. It’s not complicated.

Love God and love people! Any questions?

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