Driving into Iowa from Illinois on Interstate 80, you enter an area designated as Smokestacks and Silos National Heritage. Despite all the commercial buildings along the Interstate, I love to look for the beautiful farms that dot the countryside. On a recent trip I saw a very large barn with a unique silhouette. It had been a white barn with a dark green sloping roof which included a smaller area for perhaps milking or a tool shed.
But what struck me the most was that the barn was falling into disrepair. The roof had holes. Large ones. The paint was almost non-existent, and the barn gave the air of waiting to die. To give up and fall down, waiting to be hauled away to make room for a new, sleek barn.
And, I wondered why the farmer let it happen. Did he just want a new barn? Bigger? Smaller? Was it too much work to keep it repaired? Too much time and money? Was he tired of keeping up with the next piece needing work?
As I continued to think about the barn, I began to compare it to relationships. I’ve had many friends during my life. God has gifted me with solid friends who have enriched my life over and over. But, over time, some of those relationships have deteriorated – some because our lives went different ways, some because of distance, but some because I did not continue the work of caring for the friendship.
Just like buildings, our relationships need our attention. My very first friend was Roxanne. We met as toddlers in church, attended grades 1 – 3 together, and all of high school. We stood up for each other at our weddings, and though we never lived in the same state after high school, we continued to call each other friends. I am thankful that several years ago she initiated our monthly phone call to stay in touch, know how to pray for each other, and enjoy laughing at our memories. Because of her careful tending, our friendship continues to grow and comfort us.
Oftentimes I find myself taking friends for granted. Or even thinking, “They aren’t being a very good friend.” However, if I look carefully, I find that I haven’t been a good friend to them. God doesn’t just give us friends to make us better (or happy or encouraged) but He gives us to them to make them better (or happy or encouraged). And sometimes that takes work.
As we begin this new year, I want to encourage you to consider your friendships. Do any need your attention? Do you need to work to repair any? Do you think more about what you get out of the relationship rather than what you give to the relationship?
Take time to pray about how God would have you care for your friends this year. And thank Him for each of them.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
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