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Men routinely fall for this deadly lie and create havoc in their lives. I have done it myself. Here’s the lie: Life is found in the success, power, reputation, and fame I achieve in my career. But the man who chases after that deception will not find life. He will only find death. This is why so many men feel alone, isolated, and friendless.
Here’s the truth: Life is found in the permanent relationships I have. It’s found in the ongoing, committed connections I have with others. Of course, marriage and family immediately come to the foreground, but there is another significant connection point for a man — in his friends, especially in the friends he commits to long-term.
A Story of Friendship
My closest friend is a man who is a pastor of a small church. There are no secrets between us. There are no topics off the table for discussion. He knows all of my story, especially the dark and shameful parts. I know all of his as well. We have an ongoing dialogue about how God is working in our lives, what is happening in our hearts, and the challenges we face in our ministries. We mostly listen to each other and encourage one another.
But we also confront. He has called my bluff at times. I have pointed where I think he has gone off-track. I used to be afraid of such honesty. Now I desire it, even when it stings a bit. I know that he is not going to walk out when things get testy, and neither am I, even when we occasionally irritate each other. I’ll never forget a comment he made one day: “If I go first, I want you to do my funeral and bury me.” He was telling me this friendship was for the rest of his life. I felt surprised, then honored, and then grateful. If I go first, I want him to bury me as well.
In our early years as men, we both chased after life in success and fame. And we experienced stress, pressure, anxiety, fear, and depression as a result. It was death. Now in our later years, we are both learning the truth — that life is found in covenant.
Friendship and Covenant
Covenant is one of those Old Testament words that is hard to translate into our modern culture. The words promise, vow, and contract are somewhat synonymous, but don’t capture the nuances of covenant. A covenantal relationship was an agreement between two parties that had stipulated blessings for staying in the arrangement and curses for reneging on it. But the whole idea of the covenant is that it’s a really serious deal.
Covenants were not signed. Nor were hands shaken. Covenants were cut. Animals were cut in half and blood was spilt to signify the vow that was being taken. The implication: if any of the parties back out on this covenant, may they also be cut as well.
So a covenant was meant to be enduring. It was to last. This is the way God came to His people, by making a covenant with them, an enduring connection. But it is also the way true friendship is pictured in the Bible as well. Ruth made a covenant with Naomi to go with her until she died. David made a covenant with Jonathan to be friends for the rest of their lives.
Each of these relationships endured to the end. Each of them were life-giving and life-sustaining. Each of them brought forth unexpected goodness. Each of them had the fingerprints of God all over them.
But the greatest covenant of all was the one Jesus made with His people. We are not just His followers or His disciples. We are His friends (see John 15:15). Jesus spilt His blood to make that covenant. And He’s not going anywhere. He intends to walk with us as friends all the way to death and beyond.
Some Concluding Thoughts
I want to close with a few concluding thoughts for seeking out life-long friends:
- First and foremost, this type of committed friendship is a huge risk. That’s why so many men stay in isolation. You will have to take any number of risks to find and maintain covenantal friends.
- You can’t make these friendships happen. But you can pray for them, seek them out, and open yourself to them.
- Put yourself in places where such a friendship could develop, like a small group or a common activity.
- These friendships take time to develop trust and commitment. It won’t happen in a few months or even a few years.
- Finally, seek to be a good friend to all, as much as you are able.