So I was reading Philippians this morning and a phrase caught my eye: "be deep-spirited friends". It was a phrase that really resonated with me because I have friends that I would call "deep-spirited". It's not a philosophical meaning, rather it's a practical meaning. They are the kinds of friends that no matter what happens, they stick by you! When things are good they are cheering and when things are bad they cry with you. As the Message paraphrase puts it at the beginning of chapter 2-"put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."
I have friends that I have known for as long as I can remember! My first memories are playing with them or going to Sunday School with them or starting Kindergarten together. As far back as I can remember, they are a part of my memory, just like my family. The great joy of the Internet is that I can renew some of those friendships and keep up with what is going on in their lives on a daily basis! They know me warts and all and still call me friend even after all these years! They cheer me on, encourage me and set me straight when I need a reality check! They are, to me, deep-spirited friends!
I have friends here as well, half way across the country who I would call deep-spirited friends. They haven't known me as long but they still know me, warts and all and call me friend! Their gift of friendship to me is equally as special because, now that I am older, I understand that I can pick and choose my friends. In turn other adults can pick and choose their friends as well and they still choose to be my friend!
My friends are such a gift to me! I can say with all honesty that I would do anything for them if it was within my power. Even if it wasn't within my power I'd still try to help! And I believe that they would do the same for me. I think that's what Paul meant-true friendship is a relationship that goes beyond the surface and right down to your very core. Or, as Anne of Green Gables would say these friends are "kindred spirits." They may be far away but I know that they have been and always will be my friends!
Having said that, I think we all search for relationships like this and we suffer a great emptiness when they don't exist in our lives. I think that's why Wesley in the early days of Methodism stressed the importance of the "societies". They were designed to give an individual a chance to meet with others, study, pray, encourage and hold each other accountable. With the mobility of our society it becomes harder to develop those sorts of deep relationships but I think they are even more critical now than ever before! We need friend anchors to help us not feel so alone. We need those friends to encourage us when we're down and set us straight when we've gone off the deep end! We need deep-spirited friends!
As the old song says "make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold". If you have lost touch with an old friend maybe today is the day to try to reconnect. If you are new in town, maybe today is the day to find a place where you can make some new friends. And if you have lived in town forever and know someone has just moved in, take the time to reach out to them! We all need to connect in more than just a superficial way. Take the time to cultivate those deep-spirited friendships. You'll be glad that you did!
And to my darling friends old and new-thank you for putting up with me!