Steel Sharpens Steel-The Gift of Friendship
You use steel to sharpen steel,
and one friend sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
We meet every other Friday for breakfast. We’ve been meeting for over two years now. It’s almost hard to believe. The coffee is warm and the breakfast is filling and it wakes us up to the possibilities that lie before for the day. But it is the conversations and the connection that satisfies our souls. We talk about life, dreams unfulfilled, the yearnings of our hearts, things we are afraid of, wounds from our pasts, areas of our lives that bring us joy and cause us to be grateful, and faith. We don’t have an agenda for the meetings, God sets it.
We would say that our friendship was a divine one. We met at our local church. For the first few months we worked side by side on the ‘set up and tear down’ committee. Week after week we simply asked the quick ‘how are you’s’ in passing, never really taking the time to get to know one another on a deeper, more personal level.
But then one evening, we had a meeting to talk about the future direction of the church. It was brutally cold and snow was falling outside. Following the meeting, everyone scurried towards the vehicles to find some relief from the frigid air. I went out to the car to clean off the snow and warm it up before taking my family outside. My friend stopped me. He took a risk. He didn’t really know me. And he especially didn’t know how I would respond when he asked if he could share something deeply person with me. A bit awestruck at first by our parking lot ‘appointment’, I said “Sure! What’s going on?” “I have something that I have been carrying for a long time and I’m not sure who to tell. I’ve told some people before, but never the full extent of my story. I don’t know what to do with it but I know I need to tell someone. Would you be willing to meet with me?”
And so began our friendship.
Each and every Friday morning get together has been a sacred one. The booth we sit in serves as Holy Ground. And every conversation helps us know ourselves, each other, and God more deeply.
One breakfast conversation especially stands out to me, it happened just a few days before Christmas last year. Earlier in the month we started reading a book together which focused on the topic of gratitude. Basically, the author raised the question: How can we be grateful amidst pain, turmoil, hardship, disappointment, and disorder? How can we see beauty in ugliness, how can we see goodness and love when life isn’t ‘all it’s cracked up to be’?
So we talked about the book and we laughed about our current situations and how we, too, can see joy and beauty. My friend is in his early 30’s, single, good humored, bright, and extremely hardworking. I’m in my 30’s also, but have been blessed with four beautiful children and an amazing wife. We may share different gifts and life situations, but we do share the same values.
The conversation took an unexpected turn that day when one of us had joked about how difficult life would be if either one of us were in the others situation. I referenced a movie I had seen a few years ago called The Change Up. Although the movie has some crude and vulgar scenes in it, the message was a powerful one nonetheless. Growing up together, Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) and Dave (Jason Bateman) were inseparable best friends, but as the years had passed slowly drifted apart. While Dave is an overworked lawyer, husband and father of three, Mitch has remained a single, quasi-employed man-child who has never met a responsibility he liked. To Mitch, Dave has it all: beautiful wife Jamie (Leslie Mann), kids who adore him and a high-paying job at a prestigious law firm. To Dave, living Mitch’s stress-free life without obligation or consequence would be a dream come true. The two characters eventually switch rolls, seeing what it is really like living in one another’s shoes for a day.
Many of us, as we talked about over breakfast that day, have this, ‘The Grass is always greener on the other side’, mentality. If only my life had gone a certain way, things would be better. If I had a better job, I would be more fulfilled. If this didn’t happen to me in the past, maybe I could be somewhere else today. We live with regrets and resentments for the way our lives have or haven’t gone. We hold on to bitterness, which turns into rage and disappointment, which leads to an even more unfilled life.
For Christmas I bought my friend a book I love reading with my children written by Dr. Seuss. The book is one of Seuss’s lesser known books, but I would say, has one of the most powerful messages of them all. The book is called Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Dr. Seuss’s uncontainable positivity is expressed throughout the book.
“When you think things are bad,
when you feel sour and blue,
when you start to get mad . . .
you should do what I do!”
Seuss’s book serves as the perfect antidote for readers of all ages who are feeling a bit down in the dumps. Thanks to Dr. Seuss’s trademark rhymes and signature illustrations, readers will, without a doubt, realize just how lucky they truly are.
That day in particular, the discussion went to a deeply personal level. My friend talked about the extreme amount of loneliness he lives with at times and I talked about how there are days when I wish I had more freedom to set the agenda for my day or weekend. We encouraged one another to see light in the darkness, to see joy in the discomfort, and how to give gratitude when life hasn’t gone the way we planned it to when we were teenagers. We reminded each other of how lucky we really are and how much we can be thankful for.
It’s Friday morning conversations and meetings like the ones we share together that we long to see each of us have in this life; divine appointments where God sets the agenda, where we can be safe, vulnerable, free to be who we have been created to be, and reminded of how blessed and loved we are.
To this day, I’m extremely proud to call him one of my closest friends. I’m blessed because he took a risk and was willing to share something deeply personal about his own story and some of the wounds he had been carrying. And as a result of that risk, our Friday morning meetings are changing the way we see ourselves, each other, and the world.