Despite The Distance, My Friendships have Endured – Thank You!

Friendship Sign

CS Lewis wrote, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy or art…It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”

I can attest to that.

When cancer hit my life suddenly and without warning last year, when the battle cry was hailed, friends from near and far rallied to me in unison and in force. They would not stand by and let me fight alone. Even though the majority of my friends and all of my family reside in the United States, truly a world expanse between us, their words of encouragement, packages of love, and prayers of support and healing brought each of them to my side.

When I was wheeled into surgery, and later undergoing radiation treatments, the love, the care, and the prayers of my family and friends contributed to and gave meaning to my survival. They chose to engage with my struggles with cancer and help me continue forward in courage, in strength and in hope.

Almost a year has passed since I completed my radiation treatments. I am convinced that the loyalty and love of my family and friends and the mercy of my God played a significant life-saving role.

We need friends in times of adversity.

We need friends who are willing to experience the struggle with us.

We need friends to wait with us through the tough times.

David did.

His life was in danger. King Saul was intent on David’s demise. David escaped to the rocky crags and cairns outside of Jerusalem where he waited for his friend, Jonathan to help him plan his next steps.

At this point in time, David could not hail an army of prayer supporters as I did last year. He needed to guard his words and his actions. He needed the guidance and care of a single friend. Yet, this loyalty of friendship put Jonathan in direct conflict with his father, the king. Nonetheless, Jonathan was willing to suffer the cost of his loyalty to his friend. Why? Jonathan was guided by the truth, love and conviction which found their source and strength in God. A time of reckoning had come. Jonathan chose to help his friend David because he knew that his God was asking him to count and value the cost of his friendship.

And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon feast. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel.  

I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target.  Then I will send a boy and say, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,’ then come, because, as surely as the Lord lives, you are safe; there is no danger.  But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then you must go, because the Lord has sent you away.  And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, the Lord is witness between you and me forever.” 1 Samuel 20: 17-23 NIV

The stone of Ezel was located outside of Jerusalem. Some believe that this marker was actually a heap of stones rather than one single rock. Nonetheless, the location’s meaning is significant. Ezel, in Hebrew, means ‘departure.’ If David was in danger from the king, as it appeared, then once Jonathan’s communication was delivered, David could depart quickly for safety.

David needed to wait for the word of his friend. Shalash is the transliterated word for wait in this passage and it means to divide into three parts or to do something a third time. In this case, it would take three days for the communication to come. Why the wait? This was the amount of time Jonathan needed to return to Jerusalem, engage with the king, and then return to the stone of Ezel to alert his friend of the king’s intentions.

You can read the rest of the story in 1 Samuel 20. The intent of this blog post is to focus on the significance of friendship during a wait time that led to a departure away from all that they had known as friends.

Departures happen all the time in friendships.

A change in interest

A college departure

A new relationship that leads to marriage

A job that demands a change in location

Kids….kids….kids….um, did I say kids? They certainly cause friendship dynamics to change.

Even a significant illness can cause a relationship to change

The question that arises after the point of departure is this: will friends find a way to make their friendship still work; despite the distance, despite the kids, despite the change in interest, despite the intermittent flow of communication and despite the cost?

David and Jonathan found a way. The cost of their loyalty was great. Yet, their love and concern for one another outweighed the danger. They would wait it out and continue to advocate, support and rally to the defense and care of each other.

Have you experienced that in friendship?

I do hope so.

Moving to South Africa, just about as far away from the State of Oregon, as you can possibly get could have meant the end of my friendships. Yes, things have changed. I am not intimately involved in the day-to-day-goings-on of my friends and even my family as I once was before we relocated to South Africa as missionaries. And yes, some of my friends have moved on and we aren’t in close contact anymore. Does it make me sad? Of course. However, loyalty works both ways.

I am grateful to say that the majority of my friends have not allowed my departure to South Africa to prevent us from continuing forward as friends despite the distance. And I am grateful to say they continue to invite me into their lives and share their experiences though the time difference and physical distance between us is vast.

Yes. I am grateful.

For when the battles and challenges have come, my loyal friends have chosen to remain engaged with my life. They have chosen to wait the struggle out as we have prayed through the battle, as we have petitioned for God’s will to be done, and as we have sought the answers for how best to respond to each and every crisis. And it’s been a two-way deal. We wait the challenges out for each other, together.

There are always costs in friendships. There are always points of departure. Yet, the value of love, loyalty, kindness, humor, care, commitment and joy of friendship far outweighs them. The distance may be far for us now, but our love, our memories and our prayers keep us close. What an amazing gift!

Thank you. Thank you for being my friend.  Despite the distance, you chose never to leave my side. You have contributed not only to my survival but given my life  purpose and value through your enduring  love and loyalty.


Photo by scottamus of Flickr

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