by Joanie Butman
A friend came over last weekend to assist with some gardening. She’s the kind of friend who doesn’t hesitate when agreeing to help, despite some odd requests over the years. She’s similar to Lucy’s Ethel, Laverne’s Shirley, or even Thelma’s Louise, though we haven’t driven off any cliffs – yet.
One time she called to invite me to go for a walk. “Gladly,” I replied, “but could you help me with something first. It won’t take long.” Twenty minutes later she found herself at the helm of a paddleboat in the pond we share with our neighbor. I was leaning over the side attempting to hook the carcass of a dead goose that I needed to dispose of before my neighbor noticed it. It was no easy feat. We felt like Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory, with her paddling furiously and loudly repeating in her best Ricky accent, “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin to do!” We were attempting this extraction without attracting the attention of the goose-loving neighbor. Of course, we then had to bury the evidence of my crime. I confess. I killed the goose with a pellet gun, and don’t judge me until you’ve lived with a gaggle of geese on your lawn. They poop twice their body weight daily. Regardless, I was just trying to chase him off. I never imagined I’d actually hit my mark or that it would kill him!! What I’d billed as a ten-minute ‘errand’ turned into an hour-long comedy of errors, but the corpse was gone along with the possibility of seeing my name in the police blotter. My friend commented as we began our walk, “I’m pretty sure shooting geese is illegal. Just saying.” I responded, “So is aiding and abetting a fugitive, Thelma!”
A boring gardening project paled in comparison. It seemed simple enough – just splitting some grasses to be transplanted to her property. But there was nothing simple about it. It was like wrestling an alligator. We completed the task at hand, but not without breaking a shovel, abusing our muscles and bloodying our arms grappling with the dry stalks.
Thinking of all the times she, and many others, have rallied alongside me when I needed help (and sometimes when I didn’t think I needed help) seemed like an excellent metaphor for life. We all muddle along, beaten and bruised at times. What a blessing it is to have friends that are willing to jump into the ring with us and join in our struggle, bury our past sins (through forgiveness), or trim back unnecessary excess. Life isn’t easy. It’s important to choose to surround ourselves with joyful people who listen to us, lift us up, encourage us, laugh with us, cry with us, rejoice with us, pray with us – who make us better versions of ourselves.
Sadly, we can’t always guarantee that friends will remain in our lives. Friends move. Friends die. Friends are fallible human beings who sometimes disappoint us. But we all have access to the ultimate friend, the only one that promises to be with us always and never fail us – Jesus. He’s the best friend we’ll ever have, which is why it’s essential to choose to continually nurture that friendship. It’s easier than we think to lose touch with a good friend by not making the time to communicate. The same holds true with God. He doesn’t move, we do. By distancing ourselves, we create a chasm that can only be closed by choosing to spend time with Him regularly. James reminds us, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
Choosing to strengthen a divine friendship is the key to becoming a better version of ourselves, the version God had in mind when He created us. Why not choose to join God’s army of friends and ‘be all that you can be.’
For those of you feeling nostalgic, Lucy and Ethel's Friendship song.