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The Sheltering Tree of Friendship

“The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once described friendship as ‘a sheltering tree.’ What a beautiful description of that special relationship. As I read those words, I think of my friends as great leafy trees, who spread themselves over me, providing shade from the sun, whose presence is a stand against the blast of winter’s wind of loneliness. A great sheltering tree; that’s a friend.” -Chuck Swindoll

Friendship As a Sheltering Tree
I love that description of friendship being a sheltering tree. Over the years I have so often felt sheltered by friends as I’ve experienced difficult, sad and confusing situations. My friends are so wonderful and faithful…there to listen, encourage me and offer wise advice. I feel protected by my friends. I feel sheltered by them. And I also shelter them, as well. Just like it is a relief to retreat under a big tree on a hot summer afternoon, it is truly a relief to be cared for and protected by a friend. But what about those times when we are in a transition, find that we don’t have as many “real friends” as we thought we did, or simply have a hard time forging the bond of friendship?

Be a Friend!
Several years ago when I moved to a different state and was the “new person in town” looking to make friends, a close friend challenged me that if you are looking to build new, meaningful friendships, you should focus on being a friend first. He said, “So many people are looking for a friend to meet their needs. Stop looking for a best friend and be a best friend to someone.” I like that. Often it’s easy to feel like a victim if people aren’t reaching out to us. Yes, we all want to be reached out to and feel special…and in a healthy friendship there is mutual caring and giving….but during those times when we are forming new friendships and not many people seem to be reaching out to us, take the initiative to reach out to others. Take the time to be a friend.

Showing Honor in Friendship
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 NIV.) Jesus demonstrated ultimate friendship when He laid down His life for His friends…us. When He was living on earth He would continually demonstrate love for His friends and show them honor by sharing His entire life with them. He was open, vulnerable and was Himself with them. He also spent time healing them, listening to them, encouraging them, lovingly correcting them when necessary. Jesus did have healthy boundaries where He spent time on His own, but He really took the time to invest in the people around Him, and to become close friends with many of them. I am convicted that I dis-honor my friends when I am slow to respond to them, don’t return phone calls, and don’t make an effort to keep up with their lives. I have noticed this recently with people who don’t live locally and who I have been friends with for a long time. It is easy to take them for granted and to be lazy in a friendship, but I really want to make a commitment to continue to honor them and maintain our friendships.

Jesus Offers Us His Friendship
Shortly before Jesus went to the cross He told His closest friends on earth, “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.” (John 15:11-13, MSG.) Not only is Jesus teaching us how to care for one another, He is naming those of us who follow Him as “friends”….and He cares for us.

+What can you do to reach out and be a friend to others?

+Are you friends with Jesus? Is there something holding you back from accepting His gift and offer of friendship?

+Have you become complacent in keeping up with long-time friends? What can you do this week to show them honor and to reach out to them?

God, thank You for creating friendship! It is so special and truly is a sheltering tree. Help me to reach out to others to form new friendships and to be intentional about honoring my friends and staying a part of their lives. Help me to take time for friendships. Most of all thank You for Your personal and precious friendship and for demonstrating through Jesus how to be a true friend. Amen.