My husband and I had dinner with some old friends from college who were in town this weekend. We had a great meal; laughed, reminisced about the past, shared photos and caught up on all the happenings of our lives. It was SO refreshing to exchange with a fellow Christian couple that shared not only super history, but similar goals and beliefs. I was left to wonder why I didn’t have this kind of fellowship on a regular basis. Of course, I have buddies. Of course I exchange with many people often and have a ton of Facebook friends… But I must admit, at 39 years old, I can only count on one hand the number of “FRIENDS” I have. It led me to consider, what makes a true friend?
After moving to a new town, I have met some pretty outstanding people. I also know a TON of people from church, former jobs, college and of course childhood cronies. But FRIENDS???? What makes a TRUE FRIEND? When we were younger, if people shared common interest, we naturally gravitated toward them. We’re in band together, we live in the same apartment complex, we listen to the same music on the bus… It didn’t take much to be “besties”. I remember my Freshman year in college, my roommate was from California. She smoked weed every day and played on the soccer team. We had NOTHING in common, but she was… THERE and quickly became the default sound board for all things and actually had voice in my life. Friends were determined by the fraternity you pledged, the position/title you held at work, or the proximity of residence. It all seemed fine during those early years. You shared things in common and it was convenient. It was FUN.
Interestingly, you remember all too well when you were little and your parents guarded who you hung around. They didn’t want you to associate with the local thugs because they knew you would be influenced by them. No matter how strong you were, what upbringing you had, you could potentially morph over into whatever it was they were engaging in.
So what about NOW? Now that you are older? Maybe you have kids. You are single or married. You are at the beginning phases of the call God has on your life. You are in a new town and have to find a church home or places to hang out. NOW more than ever it is SO important to assess who is allowed to speak into your life or give you advice. Who is able to influence your decisions and of course who you spend your time with. You will find the criteria of old just won’t cut it. Everyone is not going where you are going? Everyone won’t be able to handle the success you will experience or the plan of God you are fulfilling. Everyone’s faith is not as strong as yours and won’t be able to handle the heights you will soar.
More than often, you will find old friends not celebrate you in the place you are going because they knew where you “used” to be. You will find a colleague that has chosen to stay dormant not celebrate your new promotion. You will find the places you used to hang with your college friends, are loaded with people doing the same old things you used to do. For example, an old college buddy of mine was getting married. Her bachelorette party was in a night club and allllllll our old mutual friends were going. Ummmm…. though I love you, there is NOTHING for me at that place. I am married. I have two kids. I don’t drink and at the time, I was teaching high school. I kindly declined. However, it was met with great opposition. My loyalty as a friend was questioned. REALLY? Though we were the same age. Though we shared a great history. Though we were both professionals and connected to a spouse/family (or soon to be) she could not understand or accept that I could no longer engage in those things. That my life is not my own. That I could not afford to compromise my witness, my life, my future for a night of (seeming) fun. Now I would certainly not judge her, or anyone else for the decisions they make and what may be acceptable for them. But as for ME. I have WAAAAAY too much to consider when it comes to the places I go and the people I connect with.
As a Christian, you will have to make several hard core decisions. Those decisions cannot be weak and should not be based around the approval of people. If it lines up with the Word, it will produce fruit in your life. If people are not where you are spiritually, they may not understand or agree with those choices. However, that cannot cause you to compromise making a strong stance for Jesus. For an example, you may not be able to watch shows/movies, listen to music, go to events or places you used to. If the people in your life don’t understand that, perhaps they need to be put at a further distance. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to have a deep “break up” discussion with them. But perhaps you need to put a nice space between yourselves. Perhaps you don’t talk EVERY week, but once every couple months. Perhaps you discontinue soliciting their opinion about major decisions in your life. Perhaps you stop exchanging life goals with them.
Whatever the case, the new criteria for making and establishing friendships should be this: What is your relationship with Christ? Not, are you perfect? Not, do you go to clubs or not? But where does God fit into your life? You will find, the general details of the relationship will naturally line up under that basic umbrella. People don’t have to be just like you in order to be your friend, however, sharing a common spiritual foundation eliminates the excess baggage that ultimately trips us up. When you have a spiritual connection, it weeds out a lot of the uncommon practices, beliefs, and goals. You will have a prayer partner. Someone who can celebrate your successes. An accountability partner. A soundboard for ideas etc…
Ultimately, I am super grateful for the relationships and memories of my past. I cherish the great times throughout the growing phases of my journey. But God is working on me. He is taking me places. I have goals. I have people attached to my life and I am on a mission. I realize that everyone is not on my team, doesn’t celebrate me and is not going where I am going. My criteria has changed. And though I walk in love with EVERYONE, I am super selective of people I let into my circle. Even Jesus had only a small few that He deeply connected His life, mission and purpose with. Be selective with who is allowed to be your “friend.” They will be the ones to love you where you are, encourage you on the journey and celebrate you when you get there.