Rufus Beezley was my best friend, when I was a young boy in Missouri. We were buddies. We did a lot of things together. That’s what friends do, isn’t it?
Our friendship did not depend on both of us being equal in everything, however. No way!
Rufus could do some things better than I. He could ride his bicycle across Benton Creek no big deal but on the middle rail of the Hog Trough Bridge, now that’s another matter.
A Hog Trough Bridge was a bridge constructed with only two tracks for the tires of the vehicles to run on. The space between the tracks was open.
These tracks were made of four 2 by 12s, on edge, that were separated by two-inch blocks. So, when Rufus rode his bike across the 60-foot wide creek, he had to keep his wheels on a board two inches wide.
If he got off that, the tire would drop into a two-inch wide opening. But Rufus did it. (I was chicken, so I watched him with envy.) I was proud to have a friend who could do that sort of thing, but I could do some things better than Rufus.
When we were in high school, we would work for his Uncle Joe, baling hay.
I got the job of throwing hay bales three high on the truck while Rufus stacked them. Since I was six inches taller, and somewhat stronger, I could do that job better than he.
When we found two abandoned boats on the river, we shared alike in them. It was natural for Rufus to use the “Queen Mary” the smaller and lighter one while I poled the “Queen Elizabeth.”
Why ramble on about a person you probably don’t know, and from whom I have been separated since my college days?
Because having known Rufus as a friend, highlights for me some of the significance of friendships.
Solomon once said, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, Proverbs 18:24.
This very wise man also stated, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity, Proverbs 17:16-18.
From these two scripture passages, I see that true friendship is not an off-gain, on-again matter.
It is lasting. It is intentional. It is a great thing to have a genuine friend.
Rufus and I spent time together. We planned for things that were of mutual interest and value to us. We considered time together as time well spent. We had fun!
What affected one, affected the other, also. As an example: When Rufus’ Uncle Joe broke a leg in a tractor accident, I really felt bad, too.
Our human friendships are on the horizontal plane. But there is a vertical plane that is open for friendship, as well.
Abraham was called the Friend of God, James 2:23, because of the exceptionally close relationship they maintained.
Paul J. Wadell, in “Becoming Friends” says, “To speak of friendship with God can sound so cozy and consoling, as if we are all snuggling up to God; however, there is no riskier vulnerability than to live in friendship with God, because every friendship changes us, because friends have expectations of each other, and because friends are said to be committed to the same things.
“Any friend of God is called to faithfully embody the ways of God in the world, even to the point of suffering on account of them. There may be grace and glory in being a friend of God, but there is also clearly a cost.”
God wanted to share with Abraham, his friend, the plans he had for Sodom and Gomorrah.
That put Abraham on the inside track with God, but this sort of friendship also means God could ask Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to him.
That is the sort of friendship I want to have with God. One that is so close that he has the right and freedom to ask anything of me that he desires. Do you?
Perhaps this prayer reflects your desire as it does mine: “Dear God, if I know my heart, I truly want to be your friend. Please help me synchronize my heart, mind and will with yours. Won’t you catch me when I stumble, hold me when I’m weak, prod me when I lag behind, and slow me down when I try to race ahead of you, my closest friend? Amen.”
Charles G. Thornton is pastor of Peninsula Grace Brethren Church, 44175 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Soldotna. Sunday worship is at 11 a.m. and Bible classes begin at 9:30 a.m.
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