Late on a spring Friday night in March, 1979 I received a phone call no one wants to receive. I was at my parent’s home reviewing my notes for a Bible study for teenagers I was to give on Sunday. My father had a police scanner in his car and heard the call code for a death notification and recognized the address. It was where my best friend, David, lived.
Hurriedly I got in my car and drove by the accident scene, the carnage from the car still there. Then I went to his home and his mother answered the door. It was at that moment when I knew it was true. Her eyes were red from tears as she looked at me; we both embraced and wept together.
I was to be married in ten weeks and he was in the wedding. With his mother’s permission I went into his bedroom and just stood there in my grief for a few minutes. I noticed the card from the tuxedo rental business I had given him for the measurements of his tux on the top of his dresser. As I clutched that little piece of paper I sat down on the floor and wept again.
It was so sudden and unexpected….the sorrow was overwhelming. It hadn’t been that long since we had talked. I was in college 100 miles away and came home on the weekends to work at a church. I stayed at my grandmother’s house and David had dropped by to talk. I walked him out the door, we shared some more laughs and said goodbye. I had no clue it was the last time I would see him on earth.
I wish you could have known David. He was one of the most sincere and genuine people I have ever known – and he was a lot of fun. Anyone that knew him would say the same thing. Nothing pretentious or phony, just a good guy that loved people. I think about him almost every day. One reason is because I drive by the place where he died frequently and it is a reminder of that awful night on March 16, 1979.
This event was a painful, but effective teaching moment in my life. I learned the brevity and preciousness of life. Most of all, I discovered the inestimable value of a best friend. David and I shared a bond words cannot express. In a sense, when my friend died, a part of me inside died.
So, what does a series of posts on friendship have to do with blog dedicated to family issues? It’s simple: the friends we have affect the quality of our other relationships because they influence who we are as people. If I have good friends I will be a better husband and father. I believe this will all of my heart.Everyone has a God-given desire to know others and to be known. We all need someone to walk through life’s joys and challenges with us. Of course, the most important human relationship we ought to have is with our spouse – and they truly should be our best friend.
In my senior years I have learned even more so that my closest friends have made me better in many areas of my life. The Bible validates this, ” Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend”. (Proverbs 27:17) An ax head is sharpened by a whetting stone, made of a similar composition as the iron of the ax. Without the close proximity of another piece of iron, over time, the tool would soon be diminished. The same is true of friends, specifically best friends.
A friend helps to sharpen our character and this is seen externally in our countenance. The Scripture above states that even my facial expressions are improved by a good friend. My usefulness is related to the kind of people with whom I associate, especially those closest to me.
Perhaps the best example of a friendship in the Bible is of David and Jonathan. When Jonathan died it greatly affected David – “And David lamented…over Jonathan…” (II Samuel 1:17) He tells of the pain he felt over this loss – “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan…” (II Samuel 1:26) Though not physically related, they were like brothers. The word “distressed” speaks of a broken, shattered heart.
Jonathan had sacrificed so much for his friend, David. The word “Jonathan” means “gift of God”. Truly, he was a gift from God to David who desperately needed a close friend at this time in his life. David realized this in Jonathan’s life, but when he was gone, the gift of their friendship was much more valuable than he ever knew.
Their relationship was not a casual acquaintance or even a common friendship, but one characterized by commitment (even a covenant with one another) and shared values. Their fellowship was deeper than talking about sports, business or current events; they both loved the Lord and there was a spiritual basis for their friendship.
The Bible says that “…the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (I Samuel 18:1) The word “soul” is used three times in this brief text describing their relationship. The word “knit” means “to tie something together”. This is why when Jonathan died David felt the loss so acutely; they were joined together in their hearts and souls.
Personally I think that Jonathan was a better friend to David than David to him. When David was in trouble, Jonathan was there to help him in a practical way – “And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” (I Samuel 23:16) He was a great encouragement to David in a time when he needed a friend the most.
He made great sacrifices, giving David the ceremonial clothing and weapons that belonged to him as the heir to the throne (I Samuel 18:3-4). It wasn’t a problem because Jonathan knew God had chosen his friend to be the next king after his father.
David was a better person for having known Jonathan. I’m not saying that David was selfish, but in my opinion, that Jonathan was the better friend of the two. It’s notable that when Jonathan died that David’s life began to spiral down in some key areas. Jonathan made a positive difference in his life. Best friends make us better people.
Sadly, most do not realize the value of their friend before they are gone. I didn’t. We ought to treasure them and see them as gifts from God before it is too late. Gratefully, I have other dear friends with whom I enjoy life. I’m a better person because of them. I have also learned to be aware of the wonderful gift of a good friend.
I didn’t understand this until I stood in Laughlin Funeral Home looking at the body of my best friend. David was only twenty-two when he died. We played football together, attended church together, played practical jokes together, and laughed and even cried together. I took it for granted.
The following posts will give several ways our friends influence and help us to become better people for having known them. May today we be a Jonathan to our friends and be aware of the wonderful gift of friendship God gave to us. It is both a responsibility and a privilege to be a friend. Why not drop an e-mail or call your closest friends this week and tell them how they have blessed your life. One day you’ll be glad you did.
“A true friend is one who hears and understands when you share your deepest feelings. He supports you when you are struggling; he corrects you, gently and with love, when you err; and he forgives you when you fail. A true friend prods you to personal growth, stretches you to your full potential. And most amazing of all, he celebrates your successes as if they were his own”. (Richard Exley)