A couple weeks ago my wife and I were able to spend some quality time with some friends at a lake house in central Florida. We had a great time! I thank God for close friends, true friends. To me a true friend is irreplaceable. I heard someone say their closest friend was their dog, because a dog doesn’t care how much money you make or how popular you are and he’s always there for you at the end of the day. A true friend sticks by you through thick and thin. A true friend could care less about your social stature; they don’t always look to personally benefit from your relationship. A true friend cries when you cry, laughs when you laugh, sympathizes when you’re hurting and rejoices when you succeed. A true friend will tell you the truth no matter how bad it hurts, but will always do it in love. With all that said, true friends are really hard to find and if you have someone that meets the above criteria hold on to them; treat them well and tell them how much their friendship means to you.
Growing up I didn’t realize how blessed I was with the friends God gave me. When I was 13 my parents split up and my mom packed my brother and me up and we moved to Oklahoma. It was a long trip and all three of us were carrying our share of baggage, (and no I’m not talking about the bags in the U-haul trailer). I was a broken, hurting, boy who had little security and what fragile security I did have was found in my one true friend and I had to leave him behind. Transferring schools mid-stream is never good. The new kids from the beginning of that year have already made their friends and you are the odd ball that gets thrown into the mix with everyone staring at you. As if I didn’t stick out enough I didn’t help myself with what I wore to school the first day. I don’t know what I was thinking–I don’t know what my mom was thinking to let me leave the house this way! I wore a pair of green sweatpants with my doc marten boots and I believe a black t-shirt. The shirt isn’t as clear as the green sweatpants and boots. I’m positive I wore the green sweatpants and boots because I remember as I walked into school some kid said, “Oh my God! Look at this dufus with his green sweatpants and boots!” If he had commented on my shirt I would have remembered that, too. You know the phrase, “I was so embarrassed I wanted to crawl in a hole and die”? Well that phrase doesn’t even come close to what I felt! See if I had crawled in a hole and died that would leave everyone standing around the top of the hole, laughing over the corpse of the new kid–lying dead in a hole wearing green sweatpants and boots! What I wanted was for everyone else to fall in a hole and die! That way I could have laughed at them and said, “Who’s the dufus now, huh? Bet you wish you would have wore your sweatpants and boots!” That one event pretty much summed up my year; needless to say seventh grade was awful. I still get chills up my spine when I walk into a junior high cafeteria and smell tater-tots! Eighth grade didn’t look like it was gonna be any better. I was still the new kid and the cafeteria still smelled like tater-tots. Do schools have tater-tot scented air-fresheners or something?!
But then one day a girl named Jenny Rutherford invited me to her Wednesday night church youth group. I literally looked over my shoulder thinking she was talking to someone else! As that Wednesday rolled around I began to feel kind of nervous wondering if the kids in this “youth group” would accept me. My family rarely went to church, but when we did my mom dressed us to the nines! So naturally, I figured I’d better dress up…Yeah you know where I’m going with this. I wore my khaki slacks, a dress shirt and a brand new vest my mom had got me. I remember walking in and seeing everyone else wearing jeans and t-shirts! I’m pretty sure one guy didn’t even have a shirt on! Once again I felt out of place. I stood cringing; waiting for the “dufus” remarks to start when I was greeted by this college guy who gave me a huge hug and said “we’re so glad you’re here!” It brought tears to my eyes, because for the first time in a long time I felt accepted, needed, and loved. That one hug changed my life. I ended up going back to that youth group again and again and ended up making the greatest friends anyone could ever have. They were all older than me and it was crazy how we met. We were all hanging out at a house and they thought I was funny so they kept inviting me to hang out with them. Over the years we developed a deep bond. We hung out 24/7. Every weekend we were sleeping over at one of our houses, wrestling to the flashes of a strobe light, toilet papering houses and laughing until we thought we would throw up!
I have never laughed as hard as I did than when I was with those guys! I always wondered what put us together, I know now it was God. God used those guys to keep me alive. There were several times I thought about ending my life, but my friends gave me hope. I have to be honest, at first I didn’t go to church because of God, I went because I felt accepted and I knew I would see my friends. One thing we all had in common was we came from broken homes. We each had our pain, and there were many nights we would all cry our eyes out not afraid of showing our weaknesses to each other. On several occasions I remember making a pact with them that we would be better fathers to our kids than our fathers had been to us. They stood up in my wedding and I stood up in theirs. If I was ever in a war they, along with my brother, would be the ones I would want to get my back. Never have these guys thought less of me, tried to use me, or betrayed my trust. They aren’t perfect, but they are honest and true. I remember getting together with them and praying for hours. I remember the time I thought I had bit my tongue off playing slaughter ball in the pool and they helped me look for it. There have been times when I’ve been afraid, but I knew I could call one of them, no matter what time of day or night it was; knowing I wasn’t an inconvenience; knowing they had my back. Today we’re scattered across the United States. Even if years go by when we don’t see one another, when we reunite it’s as if we’ve never been apart. They are men of Character, men of faith. My friends.
Proverbs 18:24 says “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” It may sound weird, but as my faith in my friends grew my faith in my God grew. I thank God for his true friendship and for placing these friends in my life at such a needed time. It was through their love that I began to see His love. God knows what we need and when we need it. If you have a true friend, take some time today to tell them how much their friendship means to you. Life’s to short not to tell the ones we love how much they mean to us. I hear a lot of people say they have good friends and when I hear that I always say to myself “but not as good as my friends.” While many people have good friends only a few have true friends. Be thankful for them!
PS: To my true friends, I love you guys! Thank you for always being there for me! SF forever!