Real Friends Show Up

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. –Proverbs 18:24

As a pastor, I’ve come alongside my share of people who have experienced grief, tragedy and loss. Typically, in a situation where one is hurting and/or grieving, they fall into three different categories: (1) you know of them, (2) you know them, but you’re not on “friend” status, or (3) you’re friends with them (obviously the depth scale of friendship is broad: friend to good friend to great friend to best friends).

I’m sure there’s appropriate responses for each of those types of categories when they are hurting, but I want to share what I’ve learned from (3)…my friends.

A few years ago, when my mom was in the hospital, then on hospice and then when I had to deal with post-death details, I felt extremely exhausted and lonely.

During those three weeks, I realized that I’ve been an average friend to my friends who have experienced a crisis. Here’s what happened in my situation: almost every one of my friends made contact, told me they were praying for me, family, mom, etc., and most said and/or wrote, “If there’s anything I can do, let me know.” It’s a very sweet and genuine gesture. Actually, it’s EXACTLY the type of gesture that I’ve expressed in the past. Exactly.

But here is what I learned during those three weeks that changed how I plan to be a friend to others in the future: I’m not going to offer up help, I’m going to show up. (I can’t believe I’m just learning this now.)

Everyone offers to help! I’ve done this so many times. But, very few people actually show up to help. In this particular crisis with my mom, I had a couple buddies who showed up in my life every single day during those three weeks. Everyday, they made their presence known via voicemail, text, or they came by to see what I needed…the method changed, but the message was the same–“I’m here for you. What can I do to help you?” Most of the time I didn’t need anything, but their persistence and their presence was powerful and their persistence was much more meaningful than I would have thought.

These friends taught me so much and exposed the weakness in friendship I’ve displayed for years. Yes, I’ve experienced Bible college, seminary and 30 years in the church and I’m still learning how to live in community and be more aware of the needs of others.

Thanks guys for modeling something to me I really needed to learn. I’m grateful. Next time, I’m showing up.

1. What type of friend would your friends say you are, one who “offers up” or one who “shows up”? Why?

2. What obstacles stand in your way from being a friend who “shows up” more consistently? How might you overcome them?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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Doug Fields

Doug Fields is the senior director of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of leaders, teenagers and parents each year. He’s also the author/co-author of 50+ books including: Parenting in a Screen Saturated Culture; Intentional Parenting; 7 Ways to be Her Hero – the One Your Wife Has Been Waiting For; and To Have and To Hold. In addition to Doug’s speaking and writing, he is also the co-founder of and the youth pastor at Mariners Church. Doug has been married for more than 35 years to his wonderful wife Cathy, and they live near their 3 married children and 3 grandchildren in Southern California.

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