The older I get, the more I realise the importance of having friends. John Donne was absolutely right when he wrote that 'no man is an island'. We are simply not made to live in isolation.
At the same time, I'm discovering that there are different levels of friendship as well as seasons of friendship.
There are friends whom I can laugh and joke very easily with; and friends who share some common interests that I can do stuff with. Then there are ones whom I can share my inner thoughts with and open my heart to more easily than others.
In different seasons of my life, I've seen God bring different people into my circle to meet different needs. Sometimes, I'm the one with the need and sometimes, it's the other person. And sometimes, we're able to meet each others' needs at the same time. Or simply just to enjoy each others' company.
Maintaining friendships take time and effort. For some of us who prefer our own company to that of others', there needs to be a deliberate attempt to nurture friendships in order to keep them alive.
Relationships are also very fragile. As we move past the acquaintance and casual friend phases into closer friendships where conflicts inevitably arise, it is so easy to say the wrong thing or for someone to take what we say in the wrong way. Sometimes, it takes skill, time and effort for good friends to work through any recurring issues and resolve them.
I have discovered that the best remedies for resolving conflicts are honesty and humility. It requires honesty for us to examine ourselves to see if we're in the wrong, and if we are, to be humble enough to admit our faults and to ask for forgiveness. Keeping short accounts with ourselves and with one another helps us live together in peace and harmony while enjoying the different gifts that we bring into each others' lives.
Another key ingredient to maintain and nurture relationships is grace. Grace to step into the other person's shoes to see things from his or her perspective rather than viewing them narrowly from our own. Grace to allow the person room to make mistakes and to grow through them. It's the same grace that we need from others when we ourselves make mistakes. And when our ability to show grace fails, we turn to the One who is grace personified and ask for help.
There was this quote that my husband printed out a while ago: "The person who dances with you in the rain will most likely walk with you in the storm." ~ Rachel "simply me".
I like the quote and I would like to believe that it's true. Yet, as I navigate through the storms in my life, I've had friends who had previously danced with me in the rain withdraw and fade into the background when the rainstorms worsened. At the same time, however, I've discovered the deepening of some of my relationships as these friends and I stand with each other to weather through our respective storms.
We truly discover who our real friends are when we go through fire and floods.
None of us escapes the storms of life. It is those whose hands we are holding as we go through these storms that make them more tolerable. Good friends who help us laugh through our tears and find joy in the midst of tough and unpleasant circumstances.
I'm holding some human hands; hands of dear friends whom I'm so grateful for, and whose hands I will hold in their seasons of challenge.
At the same time, I'm holding onto One hand that has never let me go, no matter how rough the terrain or how wild the weather.
It is the Hand of my Heavenly Father - the One who brings the right people into my life at the right time while taking some of them away; the One who makes good come out of every adversity and who meets my every need. The One who will never forget me because He has me inscribed on the palm of His hand- not just my name, but all of me!
I know I am safe because I know whose Hands I hold.
".... Yet I will not forget you. See I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands."
~ Isaiah 49:15,16 ~