President Obama, in one of his final acts before leaving office, made a touching gesture to his good friend and partner of eight years, VP Joe Biden. Bring on the tissue, sniff, sniff! But what came afterwards was even more of a tear jerker. Biden thanked Obama and said he didn’t deserve the Medal of Freedom (with Distinction). He gave Obama the credit, listing the accolades of his good friend, just as Obama had previously listed his. The story that stuck with me and spoke to me this morning was when Vice President Biden wanted to sell his home to afford care for his son (see, even the VP can experience such issues, none of us are immune!) President Obama urged him not to do that, stating instead that he would give his friend the money. Not loan. Give. But this message isn’t about President Obama’s generosity. I believe at that moment, because he reached out to VP Biden at a time when his family was hurting and reeling emotionally, offering support, at that moment the true friendship was solidified as one for the record books. That was when they moved from being good friends to being brothers in arms, in the struggle, bonded together, forged in fire. Their relationship was elevated to more than just mere friendship. Watching their evolution has been one of the great pleasures of their tenure. They have become an example to us all.
Friendship is a great thing – mutual admiration of each other, enjoyment of one another’s company, a buddy to attend events with or a confidante to share your secrets – that’s all good. But there is a defining point in a relationship where you can say, “This person is FOR me. They love me.” That’s the next level. The day you realize your friend is pro-YOU is a wonderful day. They are on your side, demonstrably, no matter what. That day came for me recently when my good friend came to a book event with me. I can’t even begin to describe all the ways she helped me at that time. From talking to people while I was otherwise engaged, to taking money (cuz the sales were coming fast and furious, thank God!), making her own sales, running errands – she was simply indispensable. I could not have had the measure of success enjoyed that day without her help. She became an extension of me. I trusted her to speak for me. I loved her before but I loved and appreciated her so much more after that. An occasion such as this will cause you to know who is more than just a mere friend. I was then, and am now, ever grateful for the people God has placed in my circle. He is always showing me the gifts he has placed around me.
Then there was the time another friend offered me a wonderful opportunity to sing before an audience where the incomparable Viola Davis was to be the keynote speaker. He trusted me to be his go-to person. Or, the time a friend went to toe to toe with a supervisor for me (in my absence) so hard that the next day, said supervisor was mad at me! That’s still funny because I hadn’t actually done anything to her. She just picked the wrong person to talk about me in front of, LOL! Those are the moments when you realized that someone outside of your family was undeniably FOR you. They have proven to be more than just friends. They become accepted as family, and are accorded as such.
So, there are stages to relationships. The Bible refers to us as His servants, then friends and lastly, adopted children who are grafted into the family with full rights and privileges of one naturally born. Abraham began as servant but was elevated to friend (Isaiah 41:8), as was Moses (Exodus 33:11). But Jesus went to the highest level. He declared the disciples to be more than servants and his friends but He also referred to God as “Our Father” meaning, they (and thus, we) had become family. My brother has said to me often, regarding my walk: “You reach a point where you move from servant to daughter.” That is my goal. God is calling us to higher relationship with Him. As we grow in love and grace and wisdom and His Word, that’s kind of the point. There are different levels to each position. A servant is not actually a bad thing, it’s just not the highest level. A good and faithful servant can be trusted with the things that are important to His Master. Friendship can be a fickle thing at times, depending on how you feel. Even Jesus found that out in the Garden of Gethsemane. Although they were his friends, self-preservation kicked in and they ran. The Apostle John was more than servant, more than friend. He stayed and saw things through until the end. Jesus even entrusted John with the care of Mary. John had proven that no matter what happened, he was pro-Jesus.
Family is something altogether different from even the highest phase of friendship. Family doesn’t run. They stand by you even if that’s all they can do. To be associated most intimately with God is the level for which we’re striving. My family helps me in my endeavor to build my business (and I, them), not only because they believe in me but because they love me and want to see me prosper. Family can be counted on to not talk about you when your house is dirty; they’ll even help you clean it! It is the highest level, like that “circle of trust” in Meet the Fockers. May we all be counted worthy to enter in.
” … but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24