I was reading an article on The Gospel Coalition website, and this quote jumped off the page at me:
“An ally,” Francis Schaeffer explained, “is a person who is a born-again Christian with whom I can go a long way down the road.”
While the original article had nothing to do with personal relationships, like friendship… I couldn’t deny that Schaeffer’s words really resonated with me.
It made me take a look at the friendships I have, and the friendships that I have lost.
I realized that what I really want in this world is more than a friend, I want an ally. I want someone with whom “I can go a long way down the road”.
Our spouses are natural allies, they are with us and committed for the long haul. They will always fight for us, stand up for us, support us, and encourage us. Yet, they also have that ability to sit us down and have a “come to Jesus” meeting with us. We might be hurt at first, feeling like they are criticizing us… but we generally realize, in short order, they are right. They love us, they know our hearts, but they also have the ability to see us from the outside perspective. They can see when we are out of line, when we are carrying at least part of the blame, and even when to talk us down from the soap box of righteousness to the humility of peacekeeping.
I’m sure you have heard the saying… “There are friends for a reason, a season and a lifetime”. At first, that was an assurance to me. It made me feel better about friendships that ended, and thankful for the ones that were lasting. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a season for everything, and I don’t doubt that relationships can fall into that. But, we wouldn’t say the same thing about our marriages? We wouldn’t say “There are marriages for a reason, a season and a lifetime”, would we? No.
An ally, for me is something more than just a reason or a season. Allies are like being family, the people who see us at our best and worst… and still love us. They don’t walk away when times get tough. They are relationships that don’t end, they are not seasonal. It’s why some of our closest relationships can be with someone who lives hundreds of miles away, that we may only speak to every couple of months. They claim a permanent spot in our heart, forever.
You may have relationships with people that are for a reason, season or lifetime. God may put a person into your life for a very specific reason. If you have cancer, God may place someone in your path that has walked that road to be a support to you. Perhaps you are a family who has moved into a new town, knows absolutely no one, and a sweet older woman across the street becomes an adopted grandparent to your kids. God moves them in, when you need them, and moves them out when their purpose has been fulfilled. You may miss them, think about them every so often, but their departure from your life didn’t cause an emptiness or pain.
God may choose to put a person in your life for a season. This could be a mentor, designated to help you through a period of your life (or the other way around, you may be the mentor). Your boss or long term coworkers could fall into this category. A Pastor, church members you connect with while living in a city temporarily. Long term, life time relationships may not be born, but these people have a significant impact on your life. Again, you may miss them when God moves you on… but their absence doesn’t break your heart.
You will probably refer to those people as friends, but they are not allies. They don’t have the same investment in you as your spouse does, or your blood relatives. They are more than acquaintances, but they are not there for the long road ahead.
A lifetime friend, is more. They are an ally. And, when something occurs to derail that relationship it leaves you broken-hearted. This friendship is something that is deeper in the heart and mind. It is a connection that is more like family, more permanent. When it ends, it’s like a part of you has been ripped away. We generally only have few people in our life that fit this category, that go down that long road with us. When that relationship ends, we feel like we are walking the road alone. There is a grief process similar to when someone dies, because there is no replacement for this relationship.
Even if God sends us a new friend, a new ally… it’s still new. The old is gone, we miss it, we mourn the loss of that relationship, we hold to the memories, and think about that person regularly. With the rise of social media, it even becomes nearly impossible to not think of that person. As long as there are mutual friends, we get a glimpse into their life without us in it. We wonder if they miss us, as much as we miss them?
Which begs us to question, was this person really a friend or ally to begin with? Can that kind of friendship just end, cut off one day?
I’m not sure how to answer that. But I can tell you, now that I am looking at relationships from the perspective of being “allies” for each other. It changes the standards of which I am weighing my relationships. Instead of just looking for friends, or even close friends… I am looking for allies. Something deeper. Something stronger.
Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
Find that person who, in Schaeffer’s words, with whom you can go a long way down the road.