How to Develop True Friendships
More and more I find myself desiring meaningful relationships. As I reflect on my life, I am disappointed to say that I have very few friends that I can share all that I am and everything I have with. It seems like I am not the only one. According to work published in the American Sociological Review, the average American has only two close friends, and a quarter don’t have any! Is true friendship dying away?
Let’s look at how we can develop true friendships and, more specifically, how we can use our material resources to increase the intimacy of the relationship.
Turning to the Scriptures, we have a wealth of wisdom and examples to guide us. Looking at the early followers of Jesus, we find this:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
There are plenty of treasures of wisdom to mine just in this one passage, but today the aspect of sharing material possessions is one hallmark that really stands out to me. I think this is because it brings to mind my friend Glen.
A Friendship Forged Through Play
My community for much of my life has revolved around soccer. I played college soccer against Glen in Boston. After college we played on the same team and spent lots of time together. We hung out in bars, took bus trips together to away games, and laughed a lot. We traveled to Canada for indoor tournaments and watched many a curling game on TV (it actually can be exciting, trust me).
One of the silly games we developed on bus trips to away games was to bet on what time we would arrive back home. All the players and coaches put a dollar in the hat and guessed an arrival time (e.g. 10:33PM). This turned into bribery of the bus driver and on many occasions you could see our bus do many loops in a rotary in order to delay the time for a particular person to win the prize money…
On April 1, 2011, Glen received some very bad news. His 2 ½-year-old daughter Malia’s carefree life of pony rides, soccer practice and swimming pools, came to a grinding halt. A CT scan revealed that Malia’s recent “tummy aches” were caused by a large tumor lodged in her abdomen. The solid mass wrapped around major blood vessels and pushed against her kidney and aorta.
A biopsy confirmed that Malia had a very aggressive childhood cancer known as stage IV (high risk) neuroblastoma. The cancer had metastasized into her bones and bone marrow (cranium, humerus, and femur). Immediately after the debilitating diagnosis, the family moved back to the Boston area to provide their daughter with the best treatment currently available to her at the Children’s Hospital/Dana-Farber Jimmy Fund Clinic.
An Opportunity To Share
I was stunned and heartsick for Glen. A few friends of mine started talking about how we could show our love and support for Glen and his family. The cost of treatment for Malia was in the hundreds of thousands. We got an idea. What if we could find 100 friends that would give $100 each to Glen and set up a friendly soccer tournament where we give him the money?
The response was incredible. Everyone wanted in on the deal. This was an opportunity to show love through the sharing of material possessions. Glen had true friends. We raised $22,300 for Malia and we showed with our words, our possessions, and our presence at the soccer tournament how much we loved him. I am also thrilled to share that, as of today, Malia is declared NED (No Evidence of Disease) and is a healthy, playful little girl.
Like An Extended Family
As I recall this story, I see how the sharing of resources increased the intimacy in the relationships and made us more like an extended family. Like the early followers of Jesus, we shared our possessions, spent significant time together, and the result was glad and sincere hearts. This seems to be part of what I am hungering for. I am certainly a work in progress on this and I am greatly encouraged by the Scriptures. I am also seeking out communities that live out these principles so I can imitate them. An excellent book around this topic is Family on Mission by Mike & Sally Breen.
Is there someone you sense God leading you to get to know better? Maybe it is a neighbor family you can commit to sharing dinner with once a week? Or maybe God is leading you to another parent from school that you could have coffee with one morning a week? By asking God to lead us to others and creating a rhythm of spending time together, we can choose to make space for meaningful relationships to develop. As we allow ourselves to be known and devote ourselves to knowing others, opportunities will arise to give and receive help. The material possessions we manage can be released to demonstrate love for others.