The HEAL book by Smith and Halliday turns to a discussion on “God-Breathed Friendship” on page 107. This is a bold move, considering that these days, “friends” are connections we make with our husband’s former secretary’s sister on Facebook (ok, in all fairness, I DO ride horses with her, too!). In fact, I just looked over my “friends” list on Facebook and I definitely don’t know many of these folks. Sure, I get updates each day about their visits with out of town guests, shopping or how work is going, but wow…that doesn’t make us “friends.” At least not in the biblical sense of the word! I wonder if any of us are buying the definition of “friendship” that Facebook (or MySpace, Twitter, etc) is selling?

I hope not!

Two are better than one,
       because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
       and has no one to help him up! 
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I am not sure how we can live out this passage when “intimacy” is something we do with “instant messaging” and texting on our cell phones! There *must* be real-time, real-world connection with one another. I wonder if we have forgotten that true friendship includes sitting down and looking at one another, opening our mouths, making noises–in the form of words–and listening to our friend do the same? Even better if those words have something to do with what is on our hearts or an invitation to hold me accountable to pursue godly living!

In our busy lives, we have turned commitment and friendship into a convenience accomplished with technology.

God’s people have to resist this trend! I know I have to be VERY intentional about it.

There are many reasons that I tend not only to allow myself to be swept along into this trend, but actually to welcome it… When I connect face-to-face with real people I have to be much more accountable for what I say and do. Who wants that? :-/  (Hopefully, any disciple of Christ’s!) With keystrokes on my Blackberry, I can get away with loose words and no one asks me about ungodly choices I make in my life if they can’t see me!

How many of us have either sent or been on the receiving end of an email that someone let fly before it was considered how it might be received? There is a *real* person on the other end! Someone with a heart, with thoughts, feelings…someone who can be deeply wounded. If I let my fingers fly on the keyboard and press send, I can deeply affect someone else…someone I supposedly care about.

If I would hesitate to say what is in that email to the other person’s face, then I have no business sending it.

Gosh, I didn’t intend for this to become a tirade! In fact, Facebook has a lot of value to me…I love “connecting” in some way with people who I wouldn’t ordinarily talk with at all. But for those who I have committed to doing life with…if I have reduced that commitment to updating the world on my “status” then something is seriously wrong.

The authors of HEAL remind us that intimate friendship is a vital link to walking with God including in our choices to allow God His way in our emotional, spiritual, and physical health. We really can’t compartmentalize our lives.

As you and I consider our relationships, do we have anyone with whom we let down our hair? Anyone with whom we confess what we do when no one is looking? Or do you (or I) find that you maintain some pretense with everyone. While we know that the Lord knows all, there is something intensely liberating about being real with another–being authentic. In fact, I will suggest that the shame/sin/shame/sin cycle can actually be broken when we allow authenticity to be a part of our relationships with real people in face-to-face encounters.

God has allowed me a number of people over the years with which I have had accountability at some level. Some of these were intentional accountability relationships, formed and shaped specifically for the purposes of being accountable. Others were relationships that were definitely friendships that grew to include a level of intended accountability. There have been seasons of my life, as well, where I haven’t had relationships like this and, as I look back over my life, I have to say…I think this was an intentional attempt on my part to isolate, to hide. It never helped me to reach godly goals. So, if I or you find ourselves without anyone in our lives with whom we are intentionally real with, it is probably good for us to evaluate why not. Is it because we are running from the truth? Is it because we feel shame? If that is the case, we must be, must be, MUST BE intentional about bucking this! This is from the enemy of our souls who loves it when we operate (or try to) in isolation!

Real authentic relationships DO open me up for more heartache and pain, but if God is allowed to be at the helm, these very situations can also be used to stimulate His healing for me and to enable me to press on to know Him more and to live for Him more fully. I have someone who can celebrate with, too!

As the HEAL book says, “Girls we are not meant to do this life alone!”

Bringing it home: Take a moment to prayerfully consider your relationships. Who are your closest friends? If something went horribly wrong in the middle of the night, who would you call on to pray you through? What can you do to foster that kind of friendship with another person today? What can you do to be that kind of friend for another person today? If you ask the Lord, “Who are you calling me to develop trust in?” what name does He lay on your heart? Perhaps you can begin praying about what God would have you do and that he would prepare her heart as well. God exists in Trinity…three persons intimately related to one another…three, yet one…and he has created us in His image…that sure sprains the brain, but since he has created us for intimacy somehow, how can we cooperate with His plan for us to live out His call on our lives?