“A friend loveth at all times.” Proverbs 17:17
It often happened that an old-time sailing ship, exploring and trading in new lands, would find itself calmed in the doldrums just east of South America. A Spanish galleon would sit for days, and even weeks, baking in the torrid tropic sun just off the coast of what is now Brazil. With their ship unable to move in the windless sea, unable to reach land, and sometimes the supply of fresh water gone, the men were doomed to dehydration.
Sometimes a local vessel would drift near one of these pitiful ships. The appeal from the dying sailors was always the same: “Please, give us some of your water.”
At this, the local seamen would deliver an amazing piece of information. They were sitting in the mouth of the mighty Amazon where it empties into the sea. This river is so vast that its water extends 200 miles out into the Atlantic. Although they couldn’t see land, the ship and its crew that were dying of thirst, was adrift in fresh water. All they had to do was lower their buckets over the side.
They believed themselves to be helplessly in need, but they were literally surrounded by exactly what they needed. In the same way, many people think they can’t find good new friends. We are adrift in a sea of potential friends.
And in our humanness, so many times when we feel lonely, and we think there is no one we can talk to, we are literally surrounded by that which we need. There are strangers out there who are waiting to become our friends. There are wonderful people who are going to become so close to us, and we will become so close to them, that our lives will become new again because of the friendships we ignite.
Often on our highway of life, we look back to our early life and we think of those friends we had in school. We falsely tell ourselves, “Good friendships are impossible to make now.”
We are adrift in a sea of potential friends. Wherever you look, there are people. If you are willing to touch them, they are willing to touch you. If we are willing to get out of the preconceived concepts we have had such as: “Beware of strangers,” or “There is a danger in people we don’t know,” and then, go the extra mile, we can get in touch with people who need us just as much as we need them as friends.
Realize that there are hundreds of people who need you. They are out there and they are alone. Everyone needs more friends. They need someone to touch them. They need someone to smile, listen, and laugh with them. What you can do for them! You can’t imagine it.
As spiritual people, seeking to touch God, we must also seek to reach out to others.
We must be willing to let our lives be a blessing to others. We must live our faith and be willing to get out of the preconceived concepts we have of other people that we don’t know. We have to be willing to follow Jesus by not judging, we must go into new relationships with people with our hearts and minds wide open.
I think this is a lot of what our friendships are in our spiritual family.
“Friends multiply joy and divide sorrow.”
Have you ever had a withering plant? I know you have. You’ve looked at it, and you wonder, “What should I do?” You put it into a larger pot with more nutritive soil, and it sprang back with new growth and new life. It’s no longer imprisoned in an environment that slows and may stop its growth.
Have you ever felt imprisoned? As you looked around, have you ever felt that no one believes in you? That there is no one you can really talk to? There is no one you can enjoy being with? Maybe at that time you felt like those sailors on that ship. You might have said, “Even in a crowd I feel alone.”
I want to share a story with you about Eleanor Roosevelt.
“Eleanor Roosevelt was born into a very rich family. Almost immediately she was set apart from the other children because she thought she was homely. Because of that, she automatically thought other people would not like her, so she stayed by herself. She grew to be painfully shy.
She was painfully shy even when she met Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Then she became his wife. He is in politics, and was on his way up the success ladder in politics. Eventually he became President of the United States. The political people came to her and said, “Mrs. Roosevelt, you are going to have to go out and make appearances.”
She said, “I can’t! There’s no way I can go out. I can’t face those people. They won’t like me. What would I say to them? What would I do?” They kept asking, and she refused time, and time again.
Then, finally, she said, “Okay, I’ll go, but I’m going to be a miserable failure.” She arrived and stood in front of the people and smiled. They loved her. She later said that she never felt so connected with people. She went over that imaginary wall that she had made herself, and she felt connected and at one with other people. She soon was surrounded by more friends than she had ever known in her entire life.
She enjoyed life, and was a huge success. The whole country loved her. Here is what she said. “Many of us stay walled in because we’re afraid of being hurt. We’re afraid to care too much for fear that the other person does not care at all.’”
Your life involves three major areas of relationships.
1. Our relationship with ourselves.
2. Our relationship with our fellow humans.
3. Our relationship with God.
There is an intertwining relationship among all three.
First is our relationship with ourselves. Matthew 5:14-16 the Bible says, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.”
You are a spiritual light.
We are to be a light to our world. What does that mean? Does it mean you are supposed to glow like a neon bulb? No. It means you are eliminating darkness in others around you by being you.
You bring light and warmth to every human relationship that you will have for the rest of your life.
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven [Matthew 5:16].
We are not to set ourselves apart. We are not meant to hide. Each has a purpose in life that is spiritual, and that purpose is to reach beyond ourselves, and our former self-imposed limitations, to believe ourselves to be more so we can be a blessing to the people in our world.
This leads to the second area of relationships. Second is our relationship with our fellow humans. As I look out at life, I feel that our happiness, our peace, and our success in life are the result of our harmonious relationships we have with others. Or if the reverse is the case, it is because we do not have those harmonious relationships presently in our life.
In John 15:12-13 the Bible says: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
If I want to powerfully lay down my life for you, and make a continuing difference in your life, I must lay down my concept of myself and my concept of you so that we together may experience new life that is spiritually one.
I will lay down all former concepts. I do this in service, with God.
What I give in that minute comes back to me, not 10-fold, not 100-fold, but a zillion-fold because I’ve made a new friend. I’ve made spiritual love in my life that may last a lifetime. There are no greater riches in all the world than friends. The more the merrier, decide to love friendship.
Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” [John 15:14-17].
Friendship is a fruit that will last. It is not a pear, an apple, or an orange, that will, in a few days, not be edible. It is the imperishable fruit that lasts and blooms daily in your life? It makes you smile in the middle of the day and gives you joy because you are so excited about being with your new friend? That’s REAL fruit.
God’s love coming through you can touch another and change a life. Love a new friend, and you very well could change their life forever also!
The third major area of relationships is our relationship with God. By being a friend to others, we become a friend to God. Putting God’s will first means that we open ourselves on the outer to new opportunities, new understandings, and broader horizons.
This brings us the greatest happiness and fulfillment possible as human beings. This inter-connecting relationship between these three areas of life can be compared to an endless circle involving ourselves, others, and God.
There is a saying that “a better world begins with me.” Thus, the circle begins with us.
Luke 9:48. (First picture this: there are 12 disciples, and they are arguing. Do you know what they’re arguing about? They are arguing who is the greatest among them. Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, brought a little child out of the audience and put him by His side.)
Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me – welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”
Imagine, from this day forward, if we could have THIS powerful Jesus directed, spiritual idea when a stranger walks into our presence – that it is not me – but you — you are the greatest. Imagine if we thought about that in our mind instead of judging and saying, “Who is he/she? I don’t like his/her hair. I don’t like the way his/her nose looks on her face.” Instead we think, “Aren’t they the greatest people we have ever seen in our lives?” Then our thoughts and actions follow the opinions we have inside of us. Of course, this needs to be practiced. It will be a learned habit.
Mother Theresa said something I love.
She said, “Spread love everywhere you go. First of all, in your own house, give love to your children, your spouse, and your next door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness—kindness in your eyes, your face, your smile, and your warm greeting.”
Go forth and do so, my friend.
In Jesus Christ’s name. . . Amen.