Many years ago, in a land not quite so far away, Jesus brought someone into my life. This began the very unlikeliest of unlikely friendships. This friendship spanned seven years when, again, according to the plan and purposes of Jesus, we were separated by distance and communication ceased.
Just why was this friendship so unlikely? Well, for starters I was a girl. The friend Jesus brought was, well, he wasn’t. This man, my first real friend, taught me so much about Jesus and friendships. The lessons weren’t learned all at once, in fact some of those lessons are still being learned now over 30 years later.
In case you happen to be wondering, the above is a more recent picture of my first friend. You see Jesus, again in His grace and by His plan, reunited us a few years ago. He is still teaching me about Jesus, grace, and friendships. He has taught me what it means to be a real friend. He taught me that a real friend loves and love comes in many forms and sometimes includes hard things like correction. That looks like a friend saying, “Girl! You’re being an idiot and you need to knock it off!” Through it all they stick by you. They walk life’s hard path with you, they celebrate you, they correct you, but through it all they love you.
A few months after my friend and I somewhat parted ways, Jesus brought another man into my life as a friend. We were in college, both of us had and off beat sense of humor, and dearly loved to laugh. We also loved Jesus. A few years after this Jesus again, according to His plan and purpose sent us in different directions. For a time.
We had a sweet time of reconnection yesterday. We spent some time standing in a cemetery in a rainstorm until we were freezing and soaked to the skin. He met my family and I got to meet his youngest daughter. We both walked away from that reconnection tickled and full of Joy.
A year ago I attended a week long retreat. I knew that the retreat attendees would be divided into two groups. One group would go with the man leading the retreat and the other group would go with his wife. I prayed for weeks leading up to the retreat to be put into the “girl” group. I wasn’t. I was put with the boys. To say we connected on a deep level would qualify as an understatement. None of us sought it out. These men, in less than a week, became my friends and I am so very privileged to call them my brothers.
The thing about friends is while you can pick them, more often then not the friendship chooses you and comes from the most unexpected places and people. This friend and I did not search out a friendship but Jesus gave us one.
Friendships with men add something to our lives. We add something to their lives as well. We gain a different perspective, a diverse insight.
Jesus, Himself, had many women friends. Some of His closest friends were women, Martha and Mary, Mary Magdalene just to name a few. His first words after His resurrection were to a woman.
Today we seem to think it’s adorable for a little girl and a little boy to be close, even best, friends. This friendship can continue into and through high school, but then it has to end. Why? Why is it not okay for men and women to be friends? Is it because in the words of Billy Crystal, “the sex thing always gets in the way”?
To that I will stand and cry FOUL at the top of my lungs. It’s not because I’m some naive woman who doesn’t understand. The men in my life, from my husband to my closest men friends, add so much richness to my life. I can not imagine not having these men walking through life with me.
All friendships are a special grace gift from Jesus. Male or female He sends them according to His will, by His design. To reject a friend because they are the wrong gender is to reject the gift of Jesus.