One year ago today, we left the only Michigan house we had known for nearly two years, and found ourselves lost and uncertain about our path. The job that brought us to Michigan ended abruptly, and we were trusting God to show us what was next. In those first few weeks, we were overwhelmed by the friends who came to our aid and nursed our souls. They cared for our broken hearts, put up with our frustration and helped us navigate the uncertainty we were facing. They checked in with our marriage and took time to love on our kids. Can’t imagine what the last year would have looked like with each one of them.
Thinking about the people who came to our aid, I made a list of seven types of friends who showed up to help. Can you identify with any of them? Have you had any of these show up in your life? Which one would you most aspire to be?
Friendship is vital to the success of each of us, we need the Body of Christ to become the people God wants us to be, so that we can do the work God wants us to do.
First responders: So grateful for those friends that came to our aid early-on. When we entered the first days of crisis, many friends showed up on our doorstep, delivered groceries and kindness in abundance and assured us of their on-going support. So thankful for their courage and help.
I hate your enemies, friends: Everyone needs one of those friends that “despises” your enemies as much they they despise their own enemies. These are great friends to have around, but keep in mind, they are so one-sided sided that they are usually not the best to seek out for advice! I’m grateful for the friends who came along side us during our loss, and were there for us. We needed their belief and friendship, even if their primary advice was, “lets punch all the perpetrators in the face!”
iFriends: Can’t even tell you the number of friends that sent us texts, emails and and online messages in order to encourage us. Our bedroom door was wall-papered with emails, letters and messages that came from people, from all over the country and even around the world (France, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and more!). Those notes carried the day for us, and each time they arrived in our inbox, they gave us a boost when we needed a lift. Not many of these people have a close enough perspective to offer advice, but they have words that are needed at the heart.
Punching bag friends: Everyone needs a punching bag friend -- one of those people who holds that bag while you punch it time and time again. They may not say much, but they feel your punches, and they absorb some of the hurt with you. The thing about punching bags, is you don’t need a reason to hit them, you don’t even have to be rational when you slug out your frustration. Punching bag friends just hold the bag and make sure you’re safe. These friends are the ones that usually offer good advice, and often, the kind you need even if you don’t want to hear it!
Ice cream friends: Some friends know that life can be hard, but it can be a little less hard with the right scoop of ice cream. These friends usually have a pretty good perspective, and whether you’re right or wrong in your situation, they bring along some ice cream to make life a little sweeter. These friends are good listeners.
“Puke on me” friends: Some people, when they are experiencing tough times, feel freedom to puke on everyone with whom they come into contact. That kind of response can often drive people away, not toward the person who is hurting. But there are friends that seem impervious to our verbal barfing. They listen without casting judgment, and even laugh at some of our more outlandish outbursts. These friends know we don’t have a good perspective in the moment, and they don’t expect us to develop one. Over the past year, I’ve found my “puke on me” friends have the best advice of all, because they are able to wade through your spewing to see what’s really going on in your heart.
Epaphras friends: In Colossians 4:12, Paul talks about a man named Epaphras who spent his time, “wrestling” in prayer for the people of Colosse. We have been blessed with a number of Epaphras prayer warriors, people who prayed for us day and night. More than once, I was contacted by people who emailed at 3am, said they woke up and God had put us deeply on their hearts -- so they prayed. They prayed frequently. They truly wanted God's best for us, not the easiest path. Strangely, these friends offered so little advice, but they prayed that we would hear truth and live our lives with forgiveness, hope and purpose.
Go ahead and take the plunge, friendship is better on the water.