Tony Woodlief | Author

Friendship

I am rarely humble yet often humbled, which is maybe the surest sign that God has not given up on me yet. I remember, years ago, standing in judgment over a friend who came to me seeking grace. I offered him Bible verses, I lectured him on the stern truths of the Christian sect in which I was then immersed. He was wrapped up in torment and loneliness, and all he got from me was rejection.

I called him, years later, and asked his forgiveness. Of course he offered it immediately. Since then we have been in touch — an email here, a phone call there — but we haven’t stayed close. This wasn’t because of standoffishness on his part, but rather the realities of two men raising families and working twelve-hour days and living a thousand miles apart.

Now he comes alongside me as I face a struggle of my own, a struggle about which everyone, if invited, would have an opinion. He offers not judgment, but loving counsel. He asks not that I satisfy his demands, but that I take care of myself, of the ones I love.

He is there for me in a way I was not for him, and all I can think to myself is that I could spend the rest of my days trying to be a better friend, and I wouldn’t come close to being his equal.

Then I think about the number of friends I have who are that way, who would answer the phone if I were to call at 2 a.m. (and who may well get such a call before peace returns), who would listen and love me no matter what I say, what I do. At the drop of a hat I can tell you roughly how much money I own, the approximate amount of equity in my house, exactly how many frequent-flyer miles I have. But it takes some thought to conjure up the number of true friends, because I don’t think on them as often as I should.

Their number is far greater than I deserve, and maybe just enough to carry me through to the end.

It’s worth doing such a heart’s accounting, now and then, to remind yourself how many people love you, how many people would welcome you into their homes, how many pray for you and think about you and take joy in knowing you are well.

And then to ask yourself how many people would consider you such a friend.

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