Friendship is talked about…but seldom experienced. I would like to tell you about my friend.
My friend grew up in another country. He was born in a small town where he was raised by an angel of a mother and a complex father. He was part of a large family. My friend became a Christian in his teen years. I first met him when he was in his early twenties and just starting a family. He had two families, and he was devoted to both of them. Please don’t imagine that he actually had two wives and two lives, no. He had the family that he was born into and the family he married. I noticed that at times he was torn between his loyalties to both families, especially when the needs of one came in the way of the other.
My friend’s life continued to evolve as his family grew. He and his wife began a family that grew into a large tribe. His career took him from one country to another, then he finally settled in the United States, finished his education, left his family business and started his own. I valued my friend’s wisdom, counsel and perspective. His sense of humor often brought complex situations into perspective. He was a hard worker, loyal and a person that everyone was pleased to see walk into the room. He was gentle, kind and at times misunderstood. My friend was one whose insight was often sought after, and he would often be described as a wise person. He was not perfect but close. My friend had several characteristics that I feel are worth sharing, simply for the reason that I wish we had more of these characteristics today.
My friend was kind. Kindness is often considered an offshoot of another characteristic; it’s always the stepchild. Kindness doesn’t often get center stage and prime billing. Kindness is appreciated but often overlooked. Kindness is never the life of the party and doesn’t produce much drama, sometimes even being relegated to the category of sweet, boring and nice. My friend was kind, and I believe his kindness made him someone that was safe. His kindness made him sought after by so many people. He had friends in all places, and I was particularly impressed by the variety of friends. The trusted relationships varied from people of faith and no faith, wealth and no wealth, moral and immoral. Many who sought his kindness were people who had experienced some-type of cataclysmic failure and found themselves broken. I believe those people quickly found out who their true friends where and realized they had so few. I believe it’s those people who begin to appreciate kindness and perhaps give it its due. My friend was kind to me.
My friend was faithful. Faithfulness is appreciated over time, since it often takes time to recognize it. Faithfulness demonstrates itself often when no one is looking. I have seen faithfulness in work, in relationships, in family and in faith. I believe faithfulness is often the chief ingredient to anything excellent. My friend was faithful to his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his friends and anything he was committed too. I believe his faithfulness was demonstrated in his willingness to ignore his own opportunities and needs for that of others. I believe that sometimes my friend’s faithfulness overshadowed some of his faults and weaknesses.
I was disappointed to know that my friend was not perfect. Obviously, no one is perfect, yet I had come to a place in my life that I believed he almost was. I had come to realize that my friend was so kind and faithful that he often did not know how to deal with conflict. My friend dealt with conflict by doing what so many of us do, ignore it. Conflict is akin to nitro glycerin…it exists but has to be handled so carefully because what can be used for good can easily explode and be used for destruction. I observed my friend looking for the short cut or excuse to a situation that needed to be addressed at its root. He was undisciplined in many ways. He was not good with follow through and often would recognize that he needed to do something but would never get around to it. Too many opportunities were laid at his feet only to grow rust and become yesterday’s door not today’s window. My friend’s generosity was a stepchild to his kindness but at a hidden cost. He, for example, would be quick to pay for everyone’s dinner yet unable to pay his bills and owed friends money that he was unable to pay back. He never said “no”, though he should have. My friend was well-intentioned but sometimes the desire was buried in the world of desire versus the world of reality.
A relationship with God
My friend loved Jesus with all of his heart though he did not wear it on his sleeve like a fashion statement. He demonstrated this by being a people helper extraordinaire, always willing to rescue someone or a situation. I find that some people have a personality that tends to find themselves in situations that require a rescuer. Perhaps his desire to rescue people was a characteristic tethered to his kindness. We live in a world of crisis and it’s certainly a source of great peace to know that when there is an emergency there is a ready hand, willing to rescue. God is that way. I have been in situations where the crisis was beyond what I could handle and having that first responder arrive and provide clarity, stability and calm was a true expression of peace… a sense of “I will be ok.” My friend had that characteristic; people felt that they would be “ok” when he was invited in. He made me understand that God is that way too.
I came to realize that the spring that fed his genuine character stemmed from his sincere and deep relationship with God. He took his relationship with God very seriously and translated the wisdom of God into very practical life wisdom. My friend’s faith in Christ drew others in, was compelling and attractive. He was not preachy, dogmatic or arrogant. He was moral but not self-righteous. My friend epitomized the verse in 1 Peter 3:15 that suggests that a Christian always be ready to give a reason of the hope that exists within them (assuming its visible) and do it with gentleness and respect. My friend is no longer living. He died several years ago; however, I often reflect on many of his qualities, both good and bad. I realize that I did not express to my friend the gratitude I had for him as often as I should have. I regret that. I hope my life can exemplify many of his qualities. Pops, I love you, thank God for you and appreciate how you shaped my life and understanding of God.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.