God, You've Got a Friend in Me
by Valerie Cabadonga
Back in 2009, when our family decided to move from the Philippines to New Zealand, I was excited for the new adventure.
Coming from a tight knit family (or village - read We Need a Village to see what I mean!), many of my deep friendships were more of a result of my parents' friendships than my own effort. I didn't have much experience making friends on my own, especially with other girls (that's another story for another day). So, with an opportunity to start anew, I was ecstatic.
It shouldn't be too hard, right? Smile, be nice, stay cool and *boom* you're friends. However, it wasn't as easy as I had pictured it to be. With a new country, a new high school and a language barrier, I didn't know anyone except my mum and her manager. So, imagine the horror on my first day at school, in my new green-ish uniform, all on my own. No friends to meet up with. There was no 3G, so I couldn't even pretend to be busy on my phone.
I prepared myself to be that lonewolf kid like you see in the movies. Luckily, after attending the new students' welcome assembly, a friendly, down-to-earth kiwi girl approached me and asked my name. Thank God for her, because she introduced me to friends that I wouldn't have the courage to talk on my own.
What does it mean to be a good friend?
Friendships are funny things.
At first, connections are formed through common interests, or in my case, just being crazy fun together. As we dig deeper, we learn all about that person we choose to have a meaningful connection with. Sometimes, it is revealed right there and then, while others take time to open up and discover their true qualities.
Each of us define what good friendships are. To have a good friend and to be one, we commonly expect the following characteristics:
- Active listeners: We seek friends who listen to our worries no matter how silly they can be.
- Available: We seek a friend who is (mostly) there to respond to our calls when something worries us, or be there in the important moments of our lives.
- Looks after us and our best interests: We seek for a friend who takes care of us. They're not afraid to tell us we've got spinach stuck in our teeth or to share hard truths even when it's unpleasant to hear.
- Trustworthy and love unconditionally: We seek friends who love us regardless. We seek people we can trust with our issues and the nitty gritty things.
As much as we seek for these characteristics in others, we must also do our best to exhibit these characteristics too. If you want good friends, you have to be a good friend too.
So, how is this related to being God's friend?
When we encounter and accept God in our lives, He becomes the centre of our lives. We gain '...a friend who sticks closer than a brother,' (Proverbs 18:24), and because of this, we find all those qualities of friendships in Him.
God listens to our prayers and praises (Psalm 66:19).
God is an omnipotent God. He is always there, always available. Wherever we go, He is with us and ahead of us (Psalm 139:1-12).
God looks after our best interests by providing what we need (Matthew 6:30-33) and by leading us to a way of righteous living (Psalm 25:9).
God loves us wholly and unconditionally (Song of Solomon 4:7).
We gain so much in our relationship with God as we plant deeper roots with Him. However, a relationship with God is not a one-way, but two-way street.
Like the friendships in our #squad, we need to practice reciprocity. How?
1. Be an active listener: Often times we deafen the silence by being busy in whatever shape or form it may be. We plan on resting in His presence but instead we fake rest by running the endless errands. I've come to learn from the wise people around me that nothing beats a silent moment with Him. People use prayer or meditation, or even both. How do you start it? By intentionally seeking.
2. Be available: Being an active listener comes with being available. God's timing to drop awesome truth and revelation bombs is sometimes funny. From a train ride to washing dishes and everything in between, He reveals things in the most random places. You'll never know when God will speak to you. God's appointment is not always in the measure of ability but in the measure of availability.
"God's appointment is not always in the measure of ability but
in the measure of availability."
3. Look after God's best interests: One of God's greatest tangible and visible gifts to us is His creation of the world we live in. We look after His best interests by looking after our surroundings and looking out for His people. To be kind, to love, to respect and to delight in all things that He fills. The gifts that are given to us are not entirely for our benefit, but to bless His creation.
4. Trustworthy and love unconditionally: One of the things that I am learning is to trust. To love God unconditionally and continuously trust Him. Whatever life throws at me and whatever He allows in my life will bring forth growth, blessings and to be used for greater things beyond me.
The blessings He endows to and on us are the result of our response, that is, being a good friend to Him.
I want to be able to say that "God, you've got a friend in me," *cue 'You've Got a Friend in Me' song from Toy Story.* That I am here to listen. That I am available when you speak. That You can trust me to trust you even when you turn things upside-down, inside-out and I will still love you even when, even if.
And to be honest with you all, I am not even close to nailing each of these characteristics. I am God's a-work-in-progress friend. According to a study, it takes more than two months before a new behaviour becomes an automatic action. So here's to becoming a good friend to God and to you all!