I just returned from vacation. Not your typical vacation full of exotic places, beaches, resorts, or theme parks. No. I spent a week visiting friends – hopping from one guest room to another. And I have to tell you, I have the very best friends in the entire world. Seriously, no contest, it’s not even close. As I reflected on the week with these wonderful people, I realized that there are some commonalities among my friendships that make them so rich and meaningful.
My friendships are full of laughter. Time with friends is always characterized with quick, witty comments and side splitting antics. My friends are fun and funny.
My friendships are familiar and comfortable. The houses have changed and there are now husbands and children, but one thing has remained – I’m at home when I’m in their presence. None of my friends even flinched when I informed them of my intentions of paying a visit. All would have been offended had I even thought of staying at a hotel. The comfort and hospitality so great that there’s no hesitancy to raid the fridge when hungry and in need of a late night snack.
My friendships are authentic and honest. My friends speak truth to me, even when that truth is difficult or not what I want to hear. My friends challenge me and sharpen me.
My friendship are full of genuine love, care, and acceptance. My friends have loved me when I wasn’t very lovable and stood by me when I couldn’t stand on my own. My friends have attended sporting events despite a true disinterest in sports, learned more about Iowa than they ever thought possible, and continue to pretend to care about my dog as much as I do.
My friends know me. My friends are excited to connect with me -whether it’s daily or it’s been four years, whether it’s a text message of a favorite line from FRIENDS or a treasured hand written letter. My friends pray for me. My friends cheer me on and believe in me. My friends weep and cry with me.
As I sat in church last Sunday, it was this experience of friendship that led me to realize something regarding my walk with Jesus. My pastor is currently speaking on eternity – the reality and truth about heaven and hell. I often have a longing for heaven, an ache that echoes deep in my soul. However, my understanding of heaven is so vague and lacking. I have often wondered if I simply choose heaven because of a fear of hell. Then it hit me… my longing for home is natural for this world is not my home, but what makes heaven home? I stayed in three lovely houses during my vacation. What made them special was not the architecture or the furnishings, but the people who dwell there – my friends. Heaven is home because that is where Jesus is. And Jesus is my friend.
John 15:13-15 says, “13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
However, what I realized sitting in church made me sad. I realized that I don’t treat Jesus like he’s my friend. I don’t have the same inside jokes, comfort, authenticity, knowledge, or genuineness with him as I do with my earthly friends. Oh, he has that with me, but it is often so one-sided as I rarely reciprocate. No, instead, I tend to approach Jesus like a celebrity I’ve been able to meet. I look at him with star crossed eyes, hoping to get an autograph, and brag that I’ve met him without actually growing close relationally or emotionally. But Jesus is more than a celebrity who happens to know my name.
JESUS IS MY FRIEND! And he longs for me to act as such. He wants to share laughs, inside jokes, and playful pokes. He wants me to know him as intimately as he already knows me. He longs to spend time with me, long or short, silly or serious. He wants me to be most comfortable in his presence and not feel bashful about raiding his refrigerator. Heaven is exciting because I literally get to hang out with Jesus, not as a fan adoring a celebrity but as intimate and genuine friends. Jesus said so himself.
And so my new prayer is that I see Jesus as He sees me, as a friend, and that my relationship with him reflects that truth. Only then will I be able to truly bring heaven to earth and only then will my longing for heaven truly make sense. What keeps you from seeing Jesus as your friend? How do you hope grow closer and become more intimate and comfortable with Jesus?