Receiving yet another “friend request” on Facebook, I paused before hitting the confirm button. I knew the person, they were an acquaintance. But it got me thinking, how do I define friendship?
My “Friends” on Facebook have heretofore been a combination of close and extended family, personal friends, acquaintances, along with others who appear to be friends of friends who simply want to follow my writing. Either that or they endeavor to win the “Most Number of Facebook Friends” Award.
To all my Facebook Friends, please do not be offended. I appreciate the opportunity to keep up with what is happening in your life. Yes, it is even cool to catch up with old high school friends whom I have not seen since Nixon was President. But let’s be honest, true friendship involves considerably more than being a “Facebook Friend”.
Someone once said a true friend is the one who tells you what you need to hear. More importantly, they are someone you can call at 2 AM in the morning when you need help. I suspect that definition of friendship involves a much smaller universe than my current number of Facebook Friends. Just saying……
Life happens. We live in a world where sooner or later we encounter pain, suffering, and loss. It is during such times when true friendship is most needed and the depth of it is most revealed. I will gratefully and humbly confess that I am blessed with a number of friends who are in the “2 AM call-me-if-you-need-me” category.
Aristotle once said that friendship is a slow ripening fruit. How true. Over time, it is tested and tested again. While some relationships cannot handle the tempering fires of the human jungle, there are others that are fused under the same unrelenting heat. Their depth plumbed and veracity confirmed, such friendships last a lifetime and have value beyond measure.
Recently, one of my dearest and closest friends celebrated a milestone event — the kind that must be applauded and cheered. By its very nature, it caused me to stop and ponder how much this man has meant to me. To say his life has made a difference in mine is an understatement. Yet “caring enough to send the very best” Hallmark card seemed so insufficient. I needed to express to him, in my own words, that his life had left — and is still leaving — an indelible imprint upon my own.
About that same time I came across a poem by the 19th century English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Titled Youth and Age, there is a line that caught my eye. “Friendship is a sheltering tree.” The more I pondered this metaphor of a sheltering tree, the more I had to agree, it was a consummate description of true friendship. Taking pen to paper, I wrote my dear friend the following note:
“You my friend have provided shade when the sun has been too hot and a refuge when the rain has poured too hard. The fruit you have borne in your life has provided nourishment and encouragement to many like myself. Standing beside you these past many years has made me a better husband, a better father and a better man. Your tree is tall, your roots are deep, your branches wide and your leaves full. Thanks for being a mighty fine Sheltering Tree.”
Here indeed was a mighty fine sheltering tree of a man whose fruit had fully ripened. And those, like myself, blessed enough to call him friend could testify to how the character of our souls had been encouraged and nourished.
Proverbs 17:17 highlights this kind of relationship. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
How do I define friendship? It is a relationship strengthened by the winds of adversity, consoled by unselfish acts of kindness and heartened by words of encouragement. And like a tree that has deep roots, wide branches, and full leaves, it provides lots and lots of shade.
How blessed I am to have a number of “shady” characters in my life.