There is an account of Jesus' ministry in the Bible by a man named Mark, and one event he told about in the book of Mark really has really taught me a lot about being a real friend.
I have to give you the background of the story in order to explain what I mean, so bear with me as I'm not a trained Biblical interpreter.
So Mark recalls this time Jesus is in Capernaum, and he draws a really big crowd to someone's house because word has been spreading that he is a preacher and healer. People are naturally curious about Jesus, so they all flock to this family's house and completely overwhelm the space. It was so crowded, people couldn't just walk up to Jesus. There were these four guys carrying one paralyzed man on a mat, and they really wanted to take their friend to see Jesus so Jesus could heal him. So they carried him who knows how far, and they tried to get him into Jesus. But because the crowd was so thick, their plan was thrwarted. So instead of trying to get through the crowd, these four guys decided to their paralyzed friend a different route. They made an opening in the roof above Jesus and lowered their friend, still paralyzed on a mat, in to see Jesus. The account says when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." The teachers of the law gave Jesus a hard time about saying he had the authority to forgive sins, so to show them his real power, Jesus then told the paralyzed man to get up, take his mat and walk away. So the guy does, and everyone praises God exclaiming they had never seen anything like that happen before. (Mark, chapter 2)
As I read it, this story got me thinking about friends. I have lots of friends. I have lots of people to go out with for coffee or meet up with for a play date or call on the phone or leave facebook messages ... but do I have good friends ... close friends?
I mean, do I have the type of friends who would still be my friend if something tragic happened in my life -- like if I were paralyzed. Hmmm, yes. I have friends who would support and stick by me through really hard times. So check yes for number one.
But do I have friends who really would help me during those bad times? Like, would they carry me however many miles on a mat to go see a guy who they have heard might be able to heal me. Do I have friends who would drive me to the doctor with a great reputation even though he's 100 miles away? Well, yes, but the number of people quite a bit dwindled from the last question. I have people in my life --friend wise -- who probably would carry my butt across the desert on a mat to see a doctor.
But out of those people, would any of them be willing to cut a hole in a roof and lower my butt down to the doctor? I mean, do I have friends who love me enough to put all of the effort into getting me onto a roof, cutting a hole in said roof and then lower me in? That's a lot of hard work. And to add to it, do I have friends who have faith enough to lead me to Jesus when I need to be led there because nothing else in the world can help? So the number of people dwindled even more. I can't tell you how many friends I have who would fit into this category because I am still thinking about it.
But I do want to comment about the man in the story who was paralyzed. He was simply blessed to have four friends who were crazy/loving enough to drag his immobile butt across the desert for how many miles and cut a hole in the roof so they could lower him down to a doctor they have only heard could help him. That is simply awesome. But what is more awesome to think about is the kind of friend this guy must have been to other people in order to have had these kinds of friends who would go to such great lengths for him.
So after I figure out whether I really have friends who would go to these lengths for me, I need to ask myself if I'm this kind of friend.
Having just four people who would have the love and commitment and faith it takes to really pull me through in my most desperate hour would be awesome ... and if I don't have any friends who love me this much, I think that would tell me I need to step up to the plate and be a better friend to the people I consider nearest and dearest.
OK, deep thoughts for the week over.