The Four Myths of Friendship

I once believed in the lie of Disney channel friendship.

I looked around me as a middle schooler, a teen, a college student, and then a young mom praying over my life, asking God to send me the friend that everyone else seemed to have. I wanted real friendship, real investment.

Then I found myself praying the same thing over my heartsick nine-year-old daughter, who also longed for this mysterious friendship.

God did answer my prayers, but not in the way I expected. Instead, he removed the scales and opened my eyes.

We all long for a good friend. We are all crafted as different individuals. We have different needs and different personalities. Some of us search for companionship and intimacy more than others, but friendship is a deep human need. Between practicing therapy and life in the church I have found a flaw in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Most people I have met would take a good friend over food any day. Survival is significant, but connection is part of that survival, not a secondary system.

Still, friendship is hard and complicated and the lies of friendship prevail, swirling around us. I talk to teens and adults all the time that express a desire to have one of these things in a friend:

One really good friend, preferably who lives next door and occasionally brings you chocolate or wine for no good reason

A friend you don’t have to tell your backstory to, someone that just “gets” you and instinctively “knows”

A friend who never makes you feel bad by bringing up your flaws

or a friend that calls first, that magical unicorn of an individual who picks up the phone and reaches out instead of you having to do it all the time

This is our cultural idea of friendship.

This is often how we define “besties”, “mates”, or “bff’s” whether we are eight or forty-eight. We may not struggle with friendship the way we did when we were 13, but somewhere inside of us, most of us will continue to struggle with unrealistic ideas about friendship our whole lives, because life is a journey of learning, not a destination of knowing. We will always be walking this journey of trying to understand relationships until heaven meets us here on earth. The moment we stop learning about relationship is the moment our relationships suffer. They will lack what is real, what is honest.

We would be fooling ourselves if we didn’t recognize there is at least a little bit of a spiritual battle in there somewhere sorting through friendship. To love well, to love often, to love first, to love more – these are the things of God, of course the devil would like to destroy them, mangle them, or rearrange them.

I say this as one warrior on this journey to another – the cultural lies of friendship are keeping us from real friendship.

Today we call out four myths of friendship so we can claim real friendship:

The myth of one best friend – this is awesome, but exceedingly rare, and tv makes it look as common place as tomatoes in salsa. Most of us adults, either set the idea of a best friend aside for a few really awesome friendships because we refuse to compare apples and oranges much less the people we love. Or we have an amazing friend that we confide all our hopes and dreams in but they likely live three states away, so we have to be creative and use Facetime a lot and it’s just still not all slumber parties and clay face masks.

The myth of a friend who just “knows” – this is as destructive as expecting our spouse to read our minds. No one reads minds, except for Jesus, and the Bible tells us He’s a friend like no other, so that makes sense. Friendship is about knowing, deep intimate knowing, and it’s really awesome when your friend sends you Star Wars undergarments because she “knows,” but she didn’t read your mind. Instead, you had conversations and shared details and listened and took notes. It takes time to build friendship, and effort, and more sacrifice than reward. It takes hard stuff happening like loss and transition and life change to get to the good stuff and they still won’t just magically know. This is a hard realization.

The myth of the friend who calls so you don’t have to – it’s nice to get a phone call. (Or if you’re like me, a text, because all my friend’s know I don’t answer my phone.) It’s nice to be invited places, but so many of us miss out on genuine friendship because we are waiting to be invited. When you look around you and long for a friend, I have found that God’s answer is usually “lean in.” By this I mean, we have to be willing to call, to text, to invite, and to ask in, because most other people are waiting to be asked in as well. If we stand around and wait, we may be standing around a very long and lonely time. It’s nice to be invited, yes, but it’s better to friend, to reach out, because that’s where the good stuff is, the worthwhile, and God works there with an authenticity we would miss otherwise.

Last, the myth of a friend who never points out your flaws. Lord, at 38-years-old I do not want this person in my life. I want friends who tell me I’m beautiful, friends who tell me “well done,” but I also want friends who say, “I forgive you” because that means we’ve been our real selves going through real stuff together. I don’t want harsh friends, hurtful friends, or mean girls in my life, but I do want to give my friends permission to be awkward by being a little awkward myself, permission to mess up by messing up myself, and friends who are full of grace which means I have to give them a reason to share grace in this life.

Real friendship, this is the goal. It isn’t easy. It isn’t simple. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen and it starts with His love, tucked inside of you.

(Learn more about real friendship, real relationship, and what is really beautiful in both in Altogether Beautiful.)

So Good, I Think I’ll Keep It to Myself (My Redeemer Lives 7:4)

When you live in a large family, you hide your chocolate.

You hide your Doritos, your raspberries, your Oreos, and maybe even your steak too, but you definitely hide your chocolate, because it matters most.

What do you love enough to hide…mostly from your children, maybe from your roommate, maybe from your labradoodle? What do you tuck away because it’s so good you really want to save it for yourself?

Sometimes I wonder if the Gospel is just so good, that we tend toward the same line of thinking.

It’s so good, we think we might just save it for ourselves.

I’m not saying that we are consciously thinking, “Self, don’t share the Gospel,” but I wonder how much of the devil’s tiny mind tricks play on our subconscious. There are probably many and various things keeping us from sharing Truth in Love with our neighbor, but maybe there’s even a tiny, tiny piece of us deep down that wonders if we share it, whether there will be enough. Will the grace run out? Will the specialness that God sees me with run out? And the more transparent questions —

What if I take it and do it wrong? What if I mess up the Gospel?

Will I run out of all that is good in me, if I open myself up to another person?

In Mark 16:5-8 we find out that the women who went to take spices to Jesus’ tomb might have had similar feelings

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

They were afraid. Fear does crazy things to us. We aren’t going to tackle the concept of fear today; instead, we’re going to look at how God treats fear, where He is in all our questions and our concerns of “not enough,” and try to move past holding all the good stuff close to us and instead spreading it out like wildfire.

Do you think the Gospel writer Mark put Mark 16:8 in there to shame the women, to let them know how they had failed? I don’t see that in keeping with the rest of the book and the honor brought to these women by sharing their stories of that first Easter morning at the empty tomb. Rather, the Holy Spirit decides what details are penned through the personalities and the particular witness of each Gospel writer.

What does 2 Peter 1:16-21 teach us about every word written in pages of those Gospel books and the rest of God’s Word?

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The Word is God’s, first and foremost. Notice 2 Peter 1:19 above again:

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…

That Word is a Lamp in dark places.

Those dark places are sometimes someone else’s, but they are also our own.

Christ’s resurrection shines light into the darkness of our hearts and sees that we also have fear. I think that at least part of the reason God shares the full story with us of these women hiding the Gospel, keeping their mouths closed, trembling in shock, is because He wants us to know that He knows.

He knows our lack. He knows the Gospel can be intimidating at times—so big, so awesome that we don’t quite know what to do with it.

He knows that resurrection is intimately connected to death and that can make it uncomfortable.

He knows that we wonder about failing ourselves, our loved ones, our world.

He knows that sometimes things seem so far from restoration that we think it’s maybe not even worth trying.

He knows that sometimes the night seems longer than it should be and sometimes the plan seems confusing and not what we expected.

He knows that we are waiting and we have questions.

He knows we need to eat, sleep, and breathe Hope from sun up to sun down and we simply cannot live without it.

He knows that we are made to witness, but we need one another as witnesses, for strength, for perseverance, for insight, and for confidence.

He knows each of us. He died and rose for each of us.
That fact alone makes it uncontainable.

Just like the women at the tomb, we eventually find our fears and our concerns filled with faith. Sit quiet for just a moment and read Mark 16:6. Breathe in and breathe out the words to yourself aloud.

And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.

This is resurrection, my friend. This is the Word at work in you. Let it ease into your pores and bring new life to your soul.

He is risen.

That’s all you need share. Those three words. Next time your friend shares a struggle, take their hand and tell them, “He is risen. He rises. That’s Who He is. He takes dead things, decaying things, and brings life.” The next time you see something joyous, say it — “He is risen. He rises. That’s Who He is. He brings all the life, everywhere He goes.” Pray it over one another when the resurrection is hard to see and when the resurrection comes and transforms hearts and lives.

We will rise with Him, when He comes back for us.

One day, not too far and not too long away, we’ll say, “He is risen!” to His beautiful, glorious, uncontainable face. We will have hands to touch Him, heads to lean against Him, and mouths to let out peals of laughter with Him. Won’t that be the day? Oh, my.

In the meantime…He is risen is our anthem. He is risen is our banner. He is risen is our war cry. He is risen is our cheer.

Don’t stop looking for resurrection now, friends. When you see it, simply say —

He is risen, just like He said.

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Don’t miss a bonus final study post next Monday! There will be a special surprise and an announcement to reveal the I Love My Shepherd Fall Online Study.

 

 

Today we celebrate the Resurrection! Tomorrow we Rest in the Resurrection. What special thing can you do to remember the Resurrection today or this weekend with family and friends? I know we just had Easter, but what if we surprised the world with a little Easter everyday? 😉

How Many Witnesses Do You Need? (My Redeemer Lives 7:3)

When we were homeschooling, our entire family read Case for Christ for Kids.

Then we read Case for a Creator for Kids and Case for Faith for Kids. It’s fair to say that I now believe that if there is a kid’s book about something, it’s generally my preferred read over an adult book.

I love reading. I even love reading dense theological texts, long and detailed articles about how the nervous system works, thick stacks of data regarding community needs. Sometimes, though, you need plain speaking and simple explanation.

The thing I liked most about the Case for Christ for Kids (and the adult version) was the emphasis on eyewitnesses and what that means for the Gospel.

Even if we had little to no historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God would still be God and salvation in Christ alone would not change. Our faith would not have to exist in a vacuum. These books opened my eyes, by helping me open the Scriptures to discover for myself just how much eye-witnessing went on after Jesus’ resurrection. There wasn’t one disciple involved, or two, or twelve.

There were hundreds of witnesses to the resurrection reality of Jesus Christ.

The purpose of the study today isn’t to convince you of that reality. Lee Strobel and many others are available to help you open the Scriptures for that. Rather, today we’ll focus on something different—the Resurrection is intimately connected to witnesses and witnessing.

This changes everything about the place of faith in our life. Faith isn’t just personal and individual. It was meant for sharing. Faith, by its nature and connection to the Resurrection, is something we experience and communicate about together, as the people of God.

To convince you of the community orientation of the Gospel message, in our post-resurrection reality, read 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 and note, circle, or underline just how many witnesses you can find:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

This passage strikes me as fun for math people. It maps out as an upside-down pyramid of witnesses, with Cephas, also known as Peter on the bottom, the twelve disciples standing on his shoulders with their own witness experiences, and then 500 (yes, did you catch that…500!) witnesses of the Resurrected Jesus. Next came James, then more apostles/disciples, and lastly Paul had a supernatural Resurrected Jesus sighting during his conversation experience on the Road to Damascus, just in case we thought it had to happen a certain way. It doesn’t. Again, God is God and He bears witness, even when it may or may not fit into our should-look-like-this understanding.

Just how many witnesses does the world need?

We see quickly in the next segment of 1 Corinthians 15 the work of the church witnessing to one another, and that is where you come in, my friend.

Please read 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 below. Consider, what hope is at stake here for the people, for the church?

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 

Paul writes this while many of the original witnesses to Christ were still alive (1 Corinthians 15:6). A testimony of 500+ strong and they still needed to be reminded to hold on to the hope that Jesus did in fact walk out of that tomb. That hope makes their lives New. We are not people to be pitied. We have hope when things look hopeless. We have Life when there only seems to be decay. We have forgiveness, when every thing we touch feels a little bit dirty.

Christ lives. Christ is risen. This hope stands strong with us for life today and for a greater life tomorrow. Who has witnessed to you in your life? Who has shone that Hope in and Life in and Newness in when you needed it?

Who would miss the message of “He is Risen” without your witness? God works despite our failures, but He uses our witness when we don’t even know. I am positive that all 500 of those brothers and sisters in Christ did not understand that their witness would be written down for you and I to read 2000 years later, to encourage us and give us strength for this day and bright hope for tomorrow.

I don’t know how many witnesses someone needs to believe, but I want to be one of them. May the Holy Spirit work in and through us today in ways we can’t even begin to understand to bring the witness of Hope to whoever He puts in our path.

500, 600, 7,000, 3 million…and you.

 

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