Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“Friendship is a sheltering tree; O! the Joys, that came down shower-like, of friendship, love and liberty, ere I was old!”
“Youth and Age,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Jonathan was endowed with great mental ability, high and noble morality, was handsome and possessed a heart as big as all outdoors. And as the elder son of the current and first king of Israel, Saul, he was also next in line for that most prestigious of positions. Anyone who was anyone at all knew it, and also, that the day was imminent for his advancement.
Instead, his best friend David—whom he loved—received the promotion that all the world knew he was the heir apparent to receive. And Jonathan’s response to this moment in his life? Probably not what we would have expected, or would expect to see too often today. Maybe not even the way we ourselves would respond.
Jonathan’s response was to affirm his covenant of friendship with his best friend by stripping himself of all the symbols of the position.
“And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.” (1 Samuel 18: 4)
And as if that were not enough, he then interceded on David’s behalf against the wrath of his own father Saul, the current King of Israel, to prevent David’s death, and then Jonathan continued to come alongside his beloved friend “…and helped him find strength in God.” (1 Samuel 23: 16)
Got a friend like that? I hope that you do.
A friend like “a sheltering tree?” A friend who takes second place without jealously and cheers loudly and sincerely as you stand above him on the podium. A friend who affirms and encourages, who stands by you loyally even when passed over. A friend who lovingly, yet boldly, confronts you when needed and points you to a better way—usually upward. A friend who seeks to understand and know you and what’s important to you first, rather than advancing their own agenda or interests. A friend who forgives you when you come up short, then forgives you again, and who every day embraces all of you—even the warts?
If you do—if you have a friend like that—do everything you can to hang on to them. And maybe even try to be like them.
They may initially come into your lives with different markings and familiar labels like: bride, husband, brother, co-worker, son or daughter, grandchild, sister, father, minister, mother, God-parents or God-children, business partner, boss, teammate, prayer partner, golfing buddy, mentor, in-law, coach, friend or neighbor. Those relationships may be a good place to start—but only to start—along the road to developing the kind of friendship characterized by that between Jonathan and David. A friendship which is not marked by manipulation or motive, by pretense or personal agendas; but a friendship marked by wanting the best for the other person even when that “best” may have been meant for you.
Being that kind of friend—that “sheltering tree” springs from a healthy self-image that understands and believes that the God Who sent His Son to die on the cross for you and me, and then rose again, loves you as He loves others. A view of yourself that may not have been developed when you were younger as God would have wished; but a view where today you begin to see yourself as God sees you—His precious and unique creation.
To be that kind of friend—that “sheltering tree”—you may also need to remember that friends can’t replace what you never got years earlier. It may mean remembering that healthy relationships must stand on their own. And it may mean remembering that if you try to re-live a relationship which you lost years ago in a new one found today, the new one may be lost also.
It may also mean that during the journey of your life, there will be disappointments where some whom you thought to be “friends” will fall by the side of the road along the way. But the journey to meaningful, selfless, affirming, encouraging, life-long friendships is a journey worth pursing and cultivating for the rest of your days.
Got a friend like “a sheltering tree?” Got a friend like Jonathan? Hold tightly to them. And may I encourage you to consider being that kind of friend to them.
That kind of friendship journey is one which will continue to bless you and them, today, tomorrow and for all eternity.
In His Name—Scott