"Every man leaves a lasting influence... that will affect future generations for centuries to come. But let's face it, not all legacies are the same. Some are productive, others are destructive. Some are illustrious, others are infamous... what kind of a legacy will you leave behind? A spiritual legacy is one that money can't buy and taxes can't take away, it is passing down to the next generation what matters most."
Steven J. Lawson

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Of Friendship, Sacrifice, and The Tales That Really Matter

Weather always affects my mood. If it's cloudy, wet, and windy, my mood turns either depressive or melancholic. If the weather is cold, but sunny, particularly around this time of year, my mood becomes reflective, slightly depressive, but more reflective. This is especially true around sunset. Maybe there is something in the air or the change in the leaves' color that does this to me. For some reason, other than the fact that I love cold weather, I love this time of year. It seems natural to reflect on your life at this time in the year. As of this week, the weather started out cold and rainy, but has turned to windy, cold, and sunny. And so, this post has been inspired by the weather, thoughts and reflections over the last two days, and The Lord of the Rings.

I have been reflecting and musing over the last two days on the subject of friendship. It brings one great joy(in my humble opinion) to a person when there is sweet fellowship with a dear friend. The times when bonds are made, experiences shared, and advice given, can provide some of the deepest and richest times in a person's life, where human interactions are involved. I believe God made fellowship with friends sweet so that we might get a foretaste of our union with Him in heaven. When that thought is rested upon, excitement fills my heart and I begin to long for heaven just a little bit more. In those sometimes long breaks in fellowship with dear friends, when the desire for fellowship with a person is so intense, then is the longing for heaven made greater. Though you may not see that friend again, we do have the hope of one day seeing them again in glory. I have friends that I have not seen in two or three years and I long to see them again, but even if somehow I don't ever see them again, there is the promise of being reunited in Heaven.

There are five marks of a true friend: Vulnerability, Trust, Faithfulness, Accountability, and Love. True friends are those who see your sin and weakness, but who push you to the cross and challenge you; who truly desire your best, and who love you unconditionally in spite of your brokenness. These true friends lay down their lives for you. This is the kind of friend that I wish to be to others, and the sort that I seek out in people. In Christian vernacular, we might often refer to them as brothers, as they are our spiritual brothers if we are both in Christ. In my own life, I know that I can converse about anything with those that are closest to me. I know that I will not be judged and they know that I will not judge them for anything spoken or done. There is great comfort in knowing this, and in having complete trust with another person. If one of us does cross a line or if we follow a path of sin, each of us expects to be called out and opposed in love by the other person. A true friend will always be willing to speak truth to their companion even if that person does not take it well. Proverbs 27:6 says "Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." Friends are faithful, even when it hurts...

While thinking bout friendship, I thought of famous examples of deep committed friendships. The most famous in the Old Testament that exemplifies Proverbs 27:6 is the story of David and Jonathan. I Samuel 18:1 says Jonathan's soul was knit to the soul of David. Jonathan loved David as his own soul, and even though his father King Saul tried to kill David, Jonathan protected David behind his father's back. Jonathan risked everything for David, and became vulnerable to the point where he actually took off all his outer garments including his robe, sword, and belt, and gave them to David. Jonathan knew that David had been anointed as next king, but instead of bearing resentment toward David, he humbled himself and recognized that God had appointed David as Saul's successor.

Friendship also requires sacrifice. Sacrifice may take different forms throughout the course of a friendship. It may be simply just yielding your wants and desires to the other person's desires. Perhaps it may be giving up your time for your companion even if it is inconvenient. In some cases, it may be actually giving your life for your friend. Jesus certainly fell into this mold when he died on the cross for his friends, that they may have eternal life. Jesus demonstrates what it looks like to be ultimate friend because He lived it out in His interactions with the disciples, giving up His time and energy, and because He went to the cross for guilty sinners so that we might be called His friends.

An example from literature that readily sticks out in my mind, is the relationship between Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. Sam was as loyal as they come in this epic masterpiece. Sam, who loved the Shire, who was afraid to leave, remained loyal until the quest to destroy the ring of power was complete. He was charged by Gandalf the wizard to never leave Frodo's side, and he took it to heart. Even when through the deceit of Gollum, Frodo believed that Sam was against him, Sam remained true and came to Frodo's aid in a dire situation. Had it not been for Samwise, Frodo would not have completed the quest to save Middle-Earth.

In the end of The Two Towers, Sam makes a speech about the tales the really mattered. He says that the heroes in those stories had plenty of chances to turn back, but they never did. Why were these stories ones that really mattered? Because they had something to teach the audience. Stories where the hero, through his own lust or doubts, would have failed had it not been for his loyal and trustworthy companion, are my favorite kind of stories. Legends often tend to have the characteristic of teaching the audience some valuable truth. Arthurian Legends for instance that tell the tale of King Arthur and is brave knights on a perilous quest, are moral lessons on courage, loyalty, and faith, as well as friendship and brotherhood. Who likes stories with nothing but fluff? The best stories are weighty and have great meaning to them. Even greater are the stories that give us hope and point us to Jesus. Look at the Old Testament, which is full of stories. Each one is a foreshadowing of someone greater than those in the actual story. The entire Old Testament points toward a coming Messiah who would bring hope to a dying world full of brokenness and sin. Modern examples of stories that serve more as allegory are The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. The tales that demonstrate our brokenness, our need for someone greater than us; that point to Jesus, those are the tales that really matter...

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