When I was in high school until college, I had lots of “say hi” friends. Why do I call them “say hi” friends? Because all that we do were just saying “Hi” each time we passed by. It seemed like I knew so many people yet in fact I knew so little about them. I may only remember their faces without name! As I grew up, I feel kind of tired having lots of “say hi” friends. Why? Maybe because deep in my heart I long for an intimate friendship. Most of my ‘friends’ during my study years are ‘gone’. No contact, no meeting. Each has their own path of life. I even wonder how can be those who used to be close (not the “say hi” friends) are not close at all by now. It feels like the passing time and lack of maintenance in a relationship really separate people. Now, I have tendency to be more selective with whom I spend my time with. Not because I am arrogant or picky. But because I really want to use my time for a long term relationship, with people who will be my forever friends and not just momentary one.
It is being said that friends do come and go, but a true friend is the one who comes and never leave. I really believe that if a friendship is for real, no matter how far distance separates us, we will always have a way to find one another. We will make time to maintain the relationship. Most of us are surprised when we already get so far from our used-to-be-close-friends. We expect that without investment of time to catch up with one another we can always be close. But the fact doesn’t prove that to be true. Far from it, with no investment of time, friendship dies!
Jesus regards us as His friend. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. From now on I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13-15) And of course for Him, you are so much more than a “say hi” friend. You don’t die for a “say hi” friend, but you may be willing to die for your very good friend. I guess that perspective separates people whom we spend time with different categories such as: true friend, just friends, and “say hi” friends.
1. “Say hi” Friends
Our relationship with God sometimes stay in level of “say hi” friendship. We may stop by during the day or before we eat to say, “Hi” to Him. We have a fixed prayer on everything such as, “Thank you God for this food. Bless this food so it can be free from anything that can harm our body. In Jesus name we’ve prayed, amen!” On and on. We pray the same prayer. Or maybe we call on God when we are only in need. When we face problem, we immediately call on Him, “God, help me!” So let’s have a check on our own friendship with God. Is He a “say hi” friend to you?
All of us will go through this phase first before going to another. If we find God trustworthy, we will be willing to advance our friendship with God to another phase. The same thing goes with our relationship with fellow humans. If we find they are trustworthy, don’t keep them in “say hi” friends box, pursue them so that you may develop deeper friendship with them.
2. Just Friends
This is level of friendship where we exchange names and a little bit of general information about each other’s lives. You may know their name, family, job, interests, likes or dislikes, etc. You may even often spend time with them for fun. But it stops there. You don’t encourage one another to achieve goals in life, there is no depth intimacy, and so on. Sometimes we treat God as “just friends” too! “Jesus, here is what you should know and what you can interfere in my life. But in this area, let me control it in my own way.” It’s a half-surrender relationship. It may be fun at some point, but it goes no where. It makes us stuck in our spiritual growth.
3. True Friend
When Jesus called us as His friend, He meant it for the true friend. Why? He entrusted His secrets to you. He knew you can be trusted with the knowledge of His Kingdom and about his very heart for people. He has called you to be a vessel of love to share His love to the world. That is a huge secret! And also a huge responsibility. God longs to have an intimate relationship with you, a communication between the two of you and not just one side communication. He wants to spend time with you.
We have seen that friendship grows through the investment of time. When we don’t spend time much with Jesus, no wonder we feel Him so far away. We cannot treat Him as a “say hi” friend and expect true friendship will emerge. Start prioritizing time with Jesus that will not be bothered with other activities. Say no to all activities that will interupt your time with Jesus. We will always make time for those whom we regard as important. Having a career is good, ministry is good. But your time with God is the best of all.
Another element of a true friend that must exist is the trust you share with him/her. You absolutely can trust Jesus for all your secrets. He does not merely keep it, but He can guide you to overcome the sins that keep you in bondage. Trust Him. When you do what He commands, you allow Him to give the solution of your problems. When it is so hard to forgive people who offend you, but you know Jesus command you to forgive, and you do it anyway, you will reap the sweet harvest of peace afterward. Of course it will not be easy. Therefore it really takes TRUST in Him. When your father command you to jump from the second floor and promise that he will catch you, it is no longer depend on his power to make it work but your trust in him that will make it succeed. God is like a very good Father who will not harm you. If He commands one thing, He is trying to save you from more horrible consequences.
“Faith don’t come in a bushel basket. It comes one step at a time. Decide to trust Him for one little thing today, and before you know it, you find out He’s so trustworthy you be putting your whole life in His hands.” -Lynn Austin
Trust takes time to grow. The very reason we experience broken trust in this world is because we give it too soon to untrustworthy people. It takes both time and trustworthy character before we can give trust to someone else. You don’t need to doubt on God about this. He is the expert of it! He even cannot lie! “God is not a human that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19) But on human being, test their character first before you give trust to somebody. See what they do with little stuff. Does lying seem okay with them? [Even lying for good] Do they keep their promise? Do they prioritise friendship with you? Don’t give portions of your heart to those who are unreliable to treasure it. Allow some time and open your eyes to see straight into their hearts.
Just like having so many “say hi” friends eventually makes me tired, our spiritual life may be dry too when we treat our supposed-to-be True Friend as “say hi” friends. We will get bored with shallow relationships. Go deeper in your relationship with God. Do you find it hard to understand your Bible? Start reading, googling its background, and search for what He wants for you. Do you find it is hard to find time to have quiet time? Wake up earlier or schedule some time later that is unnegotiable with other activities. Guard your friendship with God with all your might.
Friendship may start effortless. You know someone when he is your classmate back then and it happened that you were in the same group study as him. But our friendship with God started with a very high price, His blood at the cross. Treasure it. He did not start it easy, so it is so worth catching up on regular basis. Value each of your friendship too with others. Invest your time more on your true friends, and if you find them can build you up, leverage their level from “say hi” or “just friend” to true friends.
Have a truly fulfilling friendship with God and others!
Photos by Jennifer Phelps Photography