One of the sweetest and most profound conversations I’ve heard was over pancakes at the breakfast table.
My oldest son Sam was about 6 when his good friend Josiah came over for a visit. Pancakes are Sam’s favorite, so I whipped up a batch for breakfast and set them on the table for the two buddies to share.
They carefully poured the syrup over their respective short-stacks, and their little legs swung back and forth in their chairs as they casually chatted about life and their plans for the afternoon.
I helped myself to a second cup of coffee and leaned on the kitchen counter, smiling and taking in the sweet scene before me.
Sam has always been a quiet kid, and Josiah just seemed to get him. He would never interrupt him like other kids often did unintentionally, in their enthusiasm. Josiah just listened intently and then would reply thoughtfully, often with wisdom beyond his years. Sam would listen in turn, and encourage Josiah right back.
At one point in their conversation, Josiah turned his whole body in his chair so he could look Sam square in the eye and asked him if he read his Bible and prayed every day. Sam nodded emphatically, and after chewing a huge mouthful of pancakes, assured him that yes, he did every day.
“That’s good!” Josiah cheerfully exclaimed. “It’s really important!”
Sam asked the same question of Josiah, who affirmed that he also read his Bible and prayed daily. The two finished their pancakes smiling, pleased that they were both living their best lives.
I was so inspired by their gentle encouragement of one another and moved by the sweetness of the Lord unfolding in this friendship between first-graders. Even now, ten years later, it brings a smile to my face.
Good friends are like that, aren’t they? They shape us to be more like God and spur us on to grow closer to Him. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” It was that same quality that I saw in my son and his friend, iron sharpening iron, not in competition or judgment, but in a heartfelt and caring desire to see the other thriving in their relationship with Christ.
Of course, we all want friendships that make us better and encourage us in all the different facets of life, but I think we can all agree that it’s not quite as easy as it was in first grade.
Nowadays, cultivating deep and meaningful friendships takes a whole lot of intentionality with a dash of Holy Spirit-fueled bravery.
Godly friendships start first with recognizing your own belovedness. I know at a glance that might feel strange, or challenging, or maybe even totally backward, but stick with me. 😉
When we acknowledge that we are God’s beloved children, we are recognizing that we are loved simply because we are His. Not on our own merit, but because He knit us together fearfully and wonderfully. There’s nothing we can say or do to earn it or lose it-He is our Abba, our Good Father and we are precious to Him. We can love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
It is the love of Christ that frees us from insecurity and fear. Because our value and our worth are ultimately in Christ, we don’t have to worry about what others might think or get stuck in our own heads about where to start. We can boldly step out in faith, knowing that the One whose opinion matters most, loves us.
When we spend time with God, we realign our perspective with His. We can’t help but be reminded of who He is and how much He loves us. Jesus himself models this in the Gospels by withdrawing by himself to pray and spend time with the Father. He set a powerful and loving example for us to follow so that we could give from the overflow of the love we ourselves receive.
So often we try to operate on our own power and wisdom when it comes to relationships. The problem is that our power and wisdom are limited, and we eventually burn out.
But spending time with God and being constantly filled and refilled by His limitless love, empowers us to operate from a place of abundance instead of scarcity. We set healthier boundaries, make wiser choices, and speak more kindly to ourselves (and others) because we are more aware that God knows us fully and loves us wholly.
Embracing our belovedness and esteeming ourselves the way God does, also changes how we see and esteem others. Suddenly when you look at your friend, you see them first and foremost as a beloved child of God. They have honor and value in the Kingdom of God and are a reflection of God’s own image, just as you are. What a beautiful foundation for a friendship!
In the security of a friendship like that, we are able to rejoice when our friend rejoices, and mourn with them when they mourn. We can more easily speak the truth in love when they need encouragement or gentle correction, or simply to be reminded of who they are in Christ.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us.”
1 John 4:11-12
There have definitely been times in my life when even if I’m doing all of these things, good friends seem scarce. It is in those seasons, that I turn back toward God in prayer, asking him to show me someone that can be a friend and someone for whom I can be a friend. He has been so faithful to bring people into my life that have blessed me beyond anything I could have imagined. And He has prompted me to notice people in need of His love that I may have never seen otherwise. Oftentimes, those people turn out to be one and the same.
In a world where many friendships are mile-wide and puddle-deep, I want to invite you to be bold in praying for the friends that you have and the friends you have yet to meet.
Maybe you have been longing for a true friend to link arms with for what feels like ages. We are praying that God leads you to just the right person at just the right time. May He strengthen you and comfort you and help you feel your full worth in Him. And while you wait, may He show you the people in your path that are also longing to experience God’s love through the friendship that only you can offer. Perhaps you are in their life for such a time as this.
Maybe you have been blessed with more than one good friend! We are doing a happy dance with you! I want to invite you to pray for those friends and also ask God to keep your eyes open for opportunities to share His love through friendship with others. Ask Him how you can bless your community and love as He loves. Make sure to also take time to withdraw and just be with Jesus, being filled with His love and recognizing your belatedness and the belovedness of others.
Finally, wherever you are in your friendships old or new, be intentional, be prayerful and be bold. Intentionally lean into the abundant love God offers, allowing it to fill up your soul to overflowing. Pray for God’s wisdom and tune your heart to His, and follow His lead. Boldly point each other toward God, reminding one another of who we are in Christ, and watch the sweetness of the Lord unfold in your friendships. After all, the joys in life are best when shared with a friend–whether you’re inviting them to coffee or to share a big ol’ stack of pancakes.