Sometimes, God shows you something you never expected to see. He teaches you something you never expected to learn. This past week, the Holy Spirit led me on a journey of discovery, both about myself and my relationship with God. In His lesson, I learned how the depth makes a difference.
It’s been a difficult winter here at our Cross-Dubya ranch and our community, not just in terms of winter storms, increased costs, and challenges, but also in loss. In this past year, I’ve mourned the death of our donkey friend “Magic”, my ranch hand’s horse “Chip”, and the continuing activity decline of my pal “Bubba the Chocolate Lab”. I’ve also mourned with friends who have lost loved ones, faced serious illness, and my own loved one who is still facing more surgeries.
Thinking about the cost of friendships this past week—true friendship always costs you—the Holy Spirit prompted me to consider how the depth of my friendship impacts its cost.The depth of our friendships has a direct correlation to its cost. The deeper our love, the greater the cost. #CostOfFriendship #DepthOfOurLove Click To Tweet
In looking at this, God helped me understand how the depth of my relationship with others makes a difference in how I love them. I came to understand there are depths of friendship and with each one there is a level of emotional attachment. My friend, Mr. L.D., surrendered his dear wife Ms. Dian to heaven this past October. Pillars of our small community, I knew them as peripheral Christian friends who always smiled and shared a kind word, but they weren’t weekly dinner guests. I loved them as Christian brother and sister, but our friendship was a cordial relationship rather than a deeply personal one. When Ms. Dian graduated to heaven, I mourned for the family and still pray for L.D. as he grieves his loss/her gain.
When my ranch hand’s horse died, a wonderfully cowy horse, I grieved and prayed with his owner. As he perhaps got some dust in his eye as we prayed, I remained a stoic and supportive friend. The depth of his loss was felt much more by my friend, because “Chip” was his trusted companion for a good many years.
When “Magic the donkey” passed away last month, the impact of his loss remains far reaching. I first witnessed it when Mr. John called, as he choked back tears, saying, “I found Magic in the barn, he’s gone. He died sometime after I fed him this morning.” Later, dragging his body from the stall to bury him, his companion “Elpis” came to mourn once again. Her sorrowful cries as she continued to try to nudge him awake broke my heart.
Carrying him out to “Burial Hill” to his final resting place, I thought about the many conversations I’d had with my long-eared friend. While he didn’t talk with me in a conventional sense, he would react with sound or movement to let me know that he was listening. One of the traits I loved best about my pal “Magic” was that he was such a good listener.
Even on my worst day, I could stand beside him, scratch his ears, and unburden myself as he seemed to listen intently. I didn’t realize how much pollen was around in late December as I silently buried him.
Thinking about the difference in my mourning, I recognized something else. I called “Magic” my pal. A pal marks another level of friendship, doesn’t it? According to Vocabulary.com (www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/pal), “a pal is a good friend.” Another is “a close friend who accompanies his buddies in their activities.” As you would expect nothing less from a writer, I explored the roots of this word to learn that pal is a Romani word meaning “brother”, derived from the Sanskrit word bhrata. Yes, as I recall how “Magic” would escort me around the pastures and follow me down the fence lines, he was my pal.Moving from pal to companion brings another depth of love. The deeper our love, the greater our grief. #Companionship #DepthsOfLove #Grief Click To Tweet
Another pal, one with whom I think moves beyond pal to companion, is “Bubba the Chocolate Lab”. That big, floppy-eared hound dog has become a central part of my life. He still rides beside me on the UTV or in the truck (I must help him up these days), on occasion. He loves going for his rides. It used to be he would run beside me if not riding, but I could never work anywhere around the ranch without him.
These days, we walk slowly down the drive with his pal “Archie the screeching dog” and he naps, laying his head across my lap on the sofa. I scratch his ears and speak to him softly. With my boon companion, I can share my fears, failures, defeats, triumphs, and trials. He listens quietly and then leans in and presses his head to my chest, letting me know it’s going to be okay. I recognize his days are coming to an end and I will suffer yet another terrible loss on that day. As I think about the love I have for my friend “Bubba”, the words of Proverbs 17:17 come to mind.
A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17 NKJV)
Your true friends and brothers/sisters are those who love you, despite yourself, and who stand ready to help in trying times. I pray daily that God help me be that kind of friend to others.
I have several friends, a few pals, but only a handful of true companions. My wife is at the top of this earthly list. My friends Bubber, although most folks know him as Del, and Mr. John also come to mind. And on a different level—only because he puts up with more and doesn’t talk back as much—“Bubba the Chocolate Lab”.
I wondered, Why do I grieve for some losses more than others? That’s when the Holy Spirit began His lesson. His question in my spirit was, “Why do you grieve at all?” Pondering this question, I reasoned, It’s because of the love that I have/had for them. The greater our love for someone, the greater the depth of our grief.
I finished my writing pal’s book this past weekend and God used her wonderful writing to help validate His lesson. In Hope for Widows: Reflections on Mourning, Living, and Change by Ms. Marilyn Nutter, a devotion near the book’s end explained how tears of grief and pain had healing properties. Only our Creator God could make our bodies heal themselves by making different compositions for different kinds of tears. Here’s a link to order her new book. Amazon.com: Hope for Widows book
The next day, I thought about how the depths of my friendships and relationships with others vary. Soon, I realized that the depth of my relationship with Jesus Christ is what is most important in my life. My love for Him, and all that He has done and will do for me, is a direct correlation to the closeness of our relationship. Since God is the author of love, the love I have for my friends and family all stems from His love in me. The closer I am to Him, the more I can show His love in my life! Perhaps wise King Solomon summed it up best. In Proverbs 18:24, he ends with “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
I’ve learned in this life that friendships and relationships can come and go. Divorce, death, heated arguments, and personal growth can all lead to things going astray. With that said, I’ve also learned that Christ has never left me, even when I had my back turned to Him. Now that’s a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Without question, the depth of our relationship with Christ makes all the difference in our relationships in this life.