As a Friend Sharpens a Friend
Do you ever consider God as a friend?
I haven’t. Until now.
When I think about God I think about a good father. I think about wisdom, majesty, a throne, a king, a lion, an artist, and a mountain top.
When I think of Jesus I think of a savior, a son, a shepherd, a sacrifice, a storyteller.
But somehow, the word friend feels inappropriate, like calling the Queen your mate, or your grandma one of your peeps. It feels too familiar, awkward, and a little disrespectful.
But I can hear the wood splintering as God stretches the boards of the box I have put him in. The way we think about God impacts how we react to pivotal moments in our lives. It determines the type of relationship we have with God. We may limit ourselves and limit how we interact with God because of how we think of him.
Are there parts of your life or parts of yourself that you keep hidden away from God? Either because you don’t want to get in trouble, or because you don’t think He would understand? Do you only pray about the big stuff?
Would you let God take you on a drive with a blindfold on? Do you ever feel like there is stuff in your life that feels too silly to bring to God, even though they mean a lot to you?
But we tell our friends everything. Our friends know what our parents don’t. A friend is someone you have fun with, laugh with, take selfies with, cry with, and make mistakes with. A friend bails you out and knows when to not ask too many questions. A friend has your back, a friend pushes you when you need it, and brings you hot soup and lozenges when you’re sick. A friend gets you. They relate to you in a way your parents and partner sometimes can’t. A friend checks in when they haven’t heard from you, and sends you confidence-boosting texts before your interview.
There is an intimate knowledge and trust in friendship that is often absent in other types of relationships. Why do we choose to keep God at arm’s length? Why don’t we afford God that same trust?
I think of God as “father”. A good, good father, but still a father. A father-child relationship is intimate, yes, but there is a distance that comes from respect and authority. Even as adults, it’s difficult to see our parents as friends, even though they can’t send us to our rooms anymore, they are still our parents.
If you are like me, maybe you have a hard time reconciling God as God the Father and God as friend. How can he be both? How can we think of God as a friend, without dethroning Him?
I think C.S. Lewis paints a tangible picture for us in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan, the Christ representative, is depicted as a lion. Susan asks the following question about him before she has met him:
“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Later on in the story, Susan and Lucy ride on Aslan’s back while frolicking and laughing in a meadow. Shortly after, Aslan is in the midst of battle, defeating the White Witch.
Can you picture yourself laughing with God? Have you frolicked in any meadows with Him recently? I haven’t. But I want to. This is why Jesus died, to reconcile us to God so that we can experience the intimacy Adam and Eve had in the garden.
I think viewing God as a friend can help us understand his character and his heart. A verse that really helped me wrap my brain around this is Proverbs 27:17:
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (NLT)
This may be a familiar verse to you. The root idea in this verse is that as fellow humans we have the power to “sharpen” one another. We also have the responsibility to do so, but as a friend, which means, out of love and concern.
Iron is sharpened so that it is effective in its tasks. A dull blade is useless and even dangerous. As followers of Christ, we are called to help encourage one another to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. We’re told to turn away from the desires of our flesh and focus on building a Godly character.
I’m sure we can all get behind the idea of positively influencing one another with our words and actions. And to help each other grow into the people we were designed to be. We can agree that growth comes from the greatest and smallest challenges we face in daily life.
But when challenges come our way in life, where do we place God? Do we feel like God is being unfair? Do we blame him for our pain and struggle? Do we feel like He is punishing us? Or do we just feel like He isn’t there at all?
Remembering in these moments that God is also like a friend can help put these “sharpening” experiences into context. Just like a friend, the Holy Spirit may point out an unhealthy habit, but also comes alongside you and empower you to defeat that temptation. When you feel overwhelmed with life, God is there to listen, advise, and comfort you. When you are dancing in the kitchen, do you not think he is smiling down at you and maybe even joining you in your joy?
We’ve all been through a really challenging year, and sometimes it feels like there is no end in sight. If we could see God as a friend, maybe we could better see the ways that this year has sharpened us into the people that he is calling us to be.
Trust God. Let him take you on a wild drive blindfolded, knowing you will end up exactly where you are meant to be. Knowing that no matter what, the destination is good and perfect. God may be a wild lion, but he is also the greatest friend who is waiting to frolic in a field with you.
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