One summer break during college, I went with three friends to the Grand Canyon for a rim-to-rim hike. Carrying a sixty-pound pack through suffocating heat, we trekked mile after mile, snaking down the Kaibab Trail and across the scorching canyon floor. At one point, I blacked out and awoke moments later with my friends gazing down at me. They pulled me to a safe spot, took the pack off my back, and had me eat Starbursts candy (sugar was just what I needed). That escapade could have gone very differently if I’d been hiking alone!
It was an uncomfortable confrontation. The kind where you hope the hammering of your heart isn’t visible through your shirt. My friend and I stood face to face, disagreeing about how to handle a situation between our children at school. It had been a fairly serious issue, and I had spoken to a teacher about it before discussing it with my friend. After a second uncomfortable exchange by phone, we both owned up to our part of the dispute and apologized. After that, our friendship began to feel solid again. These days, it’s better than ever.
The rows of school desks would soon be filled with energetic teens. Although I was only filling in for their teacher, I took my role seriously. As the first lesson was about to start, the door was flung open and in walked a woman who announced herself as my teaching assistant. Fantastic! I thought. I need the help.
I took a personality test to determine if my dominant trait is sanguine (enthusiastic, adventurous), choleric (goal-oriented, project-minded), melancholic (organized, cautious) or phlegmatic (people person, peacemaker). It became pretty clear that I’m a bit of a choleric-phlegmatic mix.
Every now and then, I receive a note from a friend telling me how blessed she’s been by something I wrote. Often these messages arrive as I’m wondering whether my words make any difference. In the past I expressed my gratitude for her kindness. But lately I’ve come to an even greater awareness of how helpful her encouragement has been to me. Knowing that people are being impacted by my writing helps me to recognize God’s hand in my work and to rely even more on His guidance.
Who we spend our time with matters. In middle school and early high school, some of my friends were a bad influence on me, and my desire to fit in was leading me to act like everyone but Jesus.
My friend Jen and I are looking forward to meeting in Atlanta for a much-anticipated reunion. Our friendship formed over a short span of time, but the bond has remained strong despite the distance that separates us. Anne, in the novel Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery said it best: “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” My friendship with Jen reminds me that true kinship is powerful because relationships were designed to reflect God’s kingdom.
Once while on a trip visiting some friends in a village in China, we trekked deeper and deeper into the forest, venturing farther and farther away from the village. After an hour or so, we heard the deafening roar of a waterfall. Quickening our steps, we soon reached a clearing and were greeted by the beautiful vision of a rushing curtain of white water flowing over gray rocks. Spectacular!
“I want to follow Jesus,” said my new Chinese friend. His wife nodded in agreement. At the end of a conference, I had felt prompted to share more about Jesus with this couple. After I had invited them to believe in Him, to my joy they had accepted. I encouraged them to pray in Chinese, assuring them God could understand their heart language. With tears in my eyes, I witnessed the couple talking with their Creator for the first time.
One day I had a strong desire to pray for a neighbor with whom I had a distant, broken relationship. I prayed, Jesus, if you want me to talk with him, have him come up to the front of his house in the next few minutes (he was in his backyard). Just thirty seconds later he came to the front of the house where we talked for the next thirty minutes! The joy of restoration now marks our growing friendship.
Hearing rave reviews from her circle of friends—all believers in Jesus—about a TV show they’d been watching, my friend decided to check it out. After just two episodes, however, she was taken aback by the program’s explicit sexual content. She chose to no longer watch the show due to her convictions, but wondered how to handle future discussions about it. Thinking through her concerns, she wondered why the show sustained drawing power for her friends.
I’m lonely,” wrote Augusten Burroughs in one of his edgy memoirs. “And I’m lonely in some horribly deep way and for a flash of an instant, I can see just how lonely, and how deep this feeling runs.” I’ve seen Burroughs’ quote shared multiple times on social media. Clearly, he’s expressed a feeling many of us share.