I used to love hanging out with my friends. Elementary school, Junior High, High School, College are years filled with fun moments of riding bikes, watching movies, sharing pizza, and lots of time sitting in a den or park just sharing our hearts. How I love my friends.
In those same years, I can remember the feelings of insecurity, competitiveness, petty disagreements, and pretty small sighted values, including, the newest band, the clothes du jour, and the way to get around the tethers of our families.
Friends can meet a deep need to feel connected to another soul. There can be laughter, hope, encouragement, acceptance, and a sense of knowing and being known.
They can likewise, create a lowest common denominator experience, where fun withers into friction or worse, unfavorable foci's. Where group think removes conscience or at least lulls participants into homogeneous agreement to not make waves.
"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24
Though children find delight in the companion of many similar minded or aged peers, wisdom shows us, it can lead to their destruction. The desire for companionship in life is great, loneliness acute when isolated, but the salve is not many children surrounding ours. In life, our children will be best served when they find true friends, friends that stick close.
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" Proverbs 17:17
A brother, is a true friend. He has been born into the world to be with his siblings in adversity. He is there to push them through tough times, to help, to pick up them up when they fail.
There are few friends who can love at all times. Many love us when we are associated with power, and can offer easy access to the inner circle. Few are able to stay loyal when we loose our status, and are not able to give one the sense of being central to the hub of importance. Whether power filled or powerless, our brother is there.
Many love us when we are wealthy, and proximity guarantees good food, expensive entertainment, and pricey gifts. Few are able to sustain friendship when the money is gone, the food is plain, the toys are few. There is little reward for their efforts, and comfort is not abounding. In feast or in famine, our brother is there.
Many love us when we are beautiful, charming, winsome. Our fine polished look reflects beauty on them. Few are able to cosy up when we are overweight, shabbily dressed, out of dated in our adornments. There is little left to help them feel connected to their vanities. At our peak and in the ashes, our brother is there.
Many love us when we are exciting, adventuresome, new. We offer easy fun. When the shininess rubs off, or the high energy level activity is not sustained, few find reason to stick around. In our youth, and in our old age, our brother is there.
Good friends, are hard to find. Yet, wisdom instructs, good friends are only the ones who are brothers or act like brothers. Sticking close, loyal, helpful in adversity, remembering us even when we move far away.
When my children first started showing deep needs for connection to one another, my temptation was to find other families, neighbors, schools, and place them in contexts to "find friends", but as I prayed and studied the Bible, and remembered my own experiences of friends, I realized two things: Family are our first friends. Friends outside of family are hard to find, true, and similar to brothers.
Family are God's way of giving us true friends. A family that is Christ centered, seeking to serve one another, befriend one another, helping one another, forgiving one another, is in house friendship; created from the very beginning of time.
"Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother..." Ecclesiastes 4:7
Are you cultivated your children's first friendships, those in your homes? Do they think of their siblings as their best friends? Are you and your husband connecting with your children in such a way that when they become adults they will count you as their bestie, their closest BFF?
Wisdom instructs us to be wary of those who love us for what temporary comfort we can give them, for we will be tossed aside when we can no longer offer it to them, or someone better comes along, and a deep discontentment will grow in our hearts. Instead, the brothers in our lives, the sisters, the mothers, fathers, even cousins, who will love us without sway as to our popularity, cuteness, wealth, or offerings; these are the true friends we should be directing our children toward. And we can do it, every day of our lives, every time we sit down to share a meal together, every evening as we read and pray, our friendship is growing and deepening, and becoming that beautiful friendship we all desire.
They are so few friends in life and their rarity causes them to be greatly cherished.
Friends give good advice, push us to live rightly, and would never hurt us by flattery or charm: "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses" Proverbs 27:6
Friends are those who are willing to be Christ like to us, not competing with us or hoping to gain our approval, but striving to serve us and to give up moments in time, money, and selfish interests to find our greater good. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13
My son often struggles with desires for things to go as he had planned them, so when his baby brother grabs his newly made Lego creation and crumbles it into many little pieces, his first thought is not friendship. I am able to remind him that he and his brother were designed by God to be friends, and how can he be a friend now to his little brother? Usually, gushing follows, forgiveness, and then a quick desire to incorporate him into his play, in more appropriate ways.
My daughter finds herself wishing to be alone in her room, and when her nearest brother wants to follow, her response might be, "Mom, tell him to leave me alone".
I remind her, "What is one of your primary missions on earth?" And she remembers, she was made to befriend her brother. Consideration is given, opportunities to play found, friendship made.
Friendship, true friendship, is so needed in this life. Life is hard enough, without friends, it is nearly impossible.
True friendship is cultivated over the many years we are in each other's presence in our homes. It will return great reward when life's struggles come our way. May each of your homes be spaces of beautiful sibling friendship developing. And may your children find that instead of coming to ruin having too many trite companions, they have deep brother friends and like-a-brother friendships that will sustain them through this journey of life.
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:9-11
May your heritage be a family of sacrificial loving friendship, with our Creator, and with your family members. And on those rare occasions when another is willing to walk as a friend to one of our children: in hardship and plenty, giving honest answers, and helping when it is difficulty and costly, be sure to remind them what a precious gift that is. May each of your children experience friendship in their lives., brothers and like-a-brothers