I called her one day last fall, crying, because my day had been really hard. I poured out my doubts, questions, and tears. She listened, just like she always does, and then gently reminded me that Jesus was enough and He wasn’t going anywhere. We hung up the phone and I felt refreshed.
A few days later, we were texting and only after I thought to ask did I learn how hard her week had been. She’d been encouraging a close friend who had lost a brother, she’d been processing difficult emotions surrounding family situations, she’d been lonely, and she’d been exhausted. She’d been crying too, but only in between the times she’d been offering her ear or shoulder to others in need of comfort. Despite her own weariness, she just kept on pouring herself out, thinking of others first, and not focusing inward. She was following in the footsteps of her Savior, truly finding the strength she needed in Him, and counting it all joy.
Her selflessness and joy both comforted and convicted me.
I was comforted because I saw in her the friend we all long to have. The one who lays down their life in a thousand unremarkable ways and cares more to wash someone’s feet than to be known and praised in the streets for their good deeds. I saw in her the humility of one who’s greatest treasure is Christ and the love of one who has been loved with an everlasting love. I saw in her the friend who will sit down beside you while you’re house burns down, who will dry your tears when your dreams fall apart, and who will make you smile when you cannot find a reason to do so. I saw in her, the kind of friend I’ve always wanted.
I was convicted because her selflessness and humility shined a glaring light on my own selfishness and pride. I cared more to be loved than to love, to be heard than to listen, to receive than to give, and to be noticed than to serve. I wanted a good friend more than I wanted to be one. I wanted the benefits of a friendship rooted in Christ without any of the dying to self. That week when she’d laid down her own needs to care for so many others, myself being one of them, I realized just how selfish and joyless of a friend I’d become.
But I was reminded, through the example of my friend, that great joy comes in the very act of giving oneself away for others.
She is one of the most joyful people I have ever met, and it’s not dependent on her circumstances. There has not been a time where I have seen her and she’s not smiled. In her deepest pain, she’ll still be singing “Rock of Ages” at the top of her lungs. In her wrestling she clings to the truth that Jesus holds her fast. When she looks at the future, knowing God holds it all, she laughs at the time to come.
Her example caused me to pause and think long and hard about the kind of friend I want to be. She has comforted me in some of my greatest losses even while grieving her own. She points to Jesus and drags me to the cross when I forget that my hope is Christ alone. She is the kind of friend I’ve always wanted and she’s the kind of friend I want to be. She’s a friend who loves with a love utterly foreign to the selfish hearts of this world. She’s the friend who knows she isn’t enough, but knows the One who is.
The well known chapter of 1 Corinthians details for us what this genuine love looks like. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on it’s own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7 ESV)
Being loved by Christ enables us to love like He loves, rather than like the world loves. It is a love so counter cultural, so opposite of everything this world will tell you is good. Rather than insisting on immediate gratification, it is patient. Rather than sharp words and quick abandonment, it shows kindness. Rather than boasting and envying, it is genuine delight in the good fortunes of someone else. Rather than irritability and resentfulness, it is hope and endurance through hard times. The giving away of such a love is a source of unending joy, because only those who have received such a love can pour it out. As Christians, we are all called to love in such a way, to be this kind of friend. May we all learn to lay down our lives in the everyday for our friends, for what greater love is there?
I’ve been blessed with a friend who will put her arm around my shoulder and walk through the deserts and forests of life with me. She’ll put aside her own needs and desires to see that others are cared for. She loves like Christ and is fit to burst with the joy He gives those who know His love first hand. I’m grateful to know she’s right beside me. I hope that I can learn from her, and be the friend she’s been to me, one who is filled up by giving away.