Saturday, August 4, 2012

I Am A Friend of God

Who am I that You are mindful of me
That You hear me
When I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me
How You love me
It's amazing

I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend...

-Israel Houghton

In my last episode - er, post, dear reader, I reminisced a little bit about friendships that were in my life 40 years ago, how they happened then and how the electronic media has rekindled them (some for the first time). I was definitely not the most popular person in high school, yet a lot of classmates knew me at least by name. In my naiveté I desperately looked to cultivate friendships, and admittedly longed to fit in. In the end, though, I realized that I had been blessed with just enough. God did not leave me friendless. He gave me enough discernment at the time to know who I could count on as companions. More importantly, though, God revealed His own friendship; and it's truly amazing.

This isn't some personal privilege I have; God desires everyone to befriend Him. I believe that God goes out of His creative way to reach out gently to each and every person. Some flatly refuse, which is really sad. Still others will claim that God is a part of their life, yet continue to place trust in tangible, worldly people and institutions. That too is sad; but because a relationship exists - because God gave you life through the love your parents shared - there is always the hope that divine friendship will be fully realized and cultivated.

One of the signs of true friendship is that a true friend will stand up for you. Such a friend will defend what you say and what you stand for; and if some incredible change of position happens, a true friend wants to know why, as a gesture of support. A true friend trusts you. A true friend will sit down with you, act as a good listener and talk you through difficulties. God has been all of that and more to me.

What's more, God rises above all challenges, all hurt. It can take time and require a great deal of patience and perseverance. Institutions, even the Church, are managed by men and women - and men and women will fail you. It happened to me. I even tried to run away for a time, to reinvent or repackage my concept of God; but He never left me. He stood up for me. He took the bullet. He drank the poison. He died on the cross, so that I could believe that there's someplace and someone bigger than this world. He gently called me back, and I came.

Jesus is my friend. God is my friend. (Yes, it's redundant because Jesus is God, I just like saying it!)

Jesus, and those who faithfully follow him, are under attack. This is familiar territory for us, for this friendship instills a sense of peace that others don't understand. They want this peace of mind but can't for some reason put Jesus in the center of their life. This leaves them longing, questioning, and open to jealousy and temptation. I reflected a couple of days ago on Matthew 22:37-40:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law (aka the Ten Commandments) and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” 

And I wrote:
"A lot to ponder there. At the tip of the iceberg: whether all our present foibles come from a lack of loving God, neighbor, and/or self."

Yes, our present troubles. How to cope with our brokenness. How to experience the love of a friend when it would seem nobody would befriend us. How to truly play the cards life deals you; the loss of a child, the death of parents and loved ones. The incessant struggles and hype and background noise that constantly distract us and draw us away from the ability to even enter true friendship, let alone maintain it.

I am a friend of God. I am not ashamed to declare it. I, too, get distracted; of that I am ashamed.

I am a friend of God. I will take a stand and defend that which God defines and defends as good. I place my trust in Him; I therefore trust those to whom He has entrusted the mantle of leadership; the good 'shepherds of his flock'. I stand behind those who unashamedly declare their beliefs in the marketplace. I will show my support for them in such ways as I am capable.

I am a friend of God. Jesus said that being his friend won't spare us from trouble, but that He would always be there with us, and He is indeed; transcending, permeating, imparting that sense of peace that others want but don't understand and can't have because they don't want to stand up for the things He does. 

I am a friend of God. I will lose some friendships in life because it is perceived that I am old-fashioned, or perhaps even bigoted. I assure you I am not. I give you leave to pursue happiness, and I pray that God ultimately finds you receptive to the true peace and happiness only He can give - and does to all he calls His friends.

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