In 2011, a month before moving to Chattanooga, TN, to plant a church, I sat with my friend, Rob, in a coffee shop. I asked him to pray about committing to on-going friendship for the rest of our lives.
In typical Rob-fashion, he said, "I don't have to pray. Yes!"
Little did we know that we had stumbled upon the fourth step toward spiritual and emotional stability — committed friendship.
Why we need friends
We're created in the image of a relational God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit made humanity, not for lack of love but as an overflow.
God doesn't need us, but He wants to know and be known by us.
Despite how much sin (ours and others) tempts us toward isolation, the God-bent in us aches for relationship.
"Both the pain we encounter and the healing we find occur in the context of relationship. The real fix, if there is one, is being found by God, often with the help of others whom you trust." - Chuck DeGroat (Toughest People to Love, 143)
Friendship requires the courage to love knowing we'll experience pain. Yet we can only love as deeply as we're willing to hurt.
The commitment of friendship
In 2016, Rob and I sat with Dave and Chris. We invited these men to jump into a lifelong commitment of friendship. They actually prayed about it and said, "Yes."
The Four Horsemen emerged. This group name — initially a joke — seemed appropriate because each of our lives felt slightly apocalyptic at the time. The name stuck because we don't take ourselves too seriously. More importantly, the friendships remain.
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. - Proverb18:24
When I tell this story, people are curious (they want friends like this) and confused (they're weirded out by the commitment level — which makes sense in a commitment-phobic culture).
Yet such loyalty creates space for vulnerability, and vulnerability leads to spiritual and emotional stability.
What it costs
Friendships aren't born; they're made.
Here's where to start:
Commit to friendships. Start small. I have a local friend group (my elder team) and a non-local group (the Four Horsemen). Don't let this or the life-time commitment piece overwhelm you. Prayerfully ask a few friends to commit to friendship for a short period. After 6 months or so, re-evaluate.
Commit to consistency. Friendships thrive with connection. Regular face time and constant texting is essential.
Commit to vulnerability. Don't feel like you need to share your deepest, darkest secrets right out of the gate. Instead, commit to one step after another of truthfulness.
Commit to compassion. In so doing, we fall forward together as we share the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
"With practice of such [compassionate] interactions, the speaker collects a new set of memories of what it means to live vulnerably with others... The speaker has the opportunity to grow in resilience as he or she learns how to loosen shame's grip on life by living transparently as often as possible. This type of community provides one way for its members to practice vulnerability and strengthen the ability to make this a way of life in all other relational contexts they inhabit." - Curt Thompson (The Soul of Shame, 137-138)
Committed friendships cost us time and energy, yet they ultimately make us rich.
What next step can you take toward committed friendship?
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