This past year was marked by some amazing moments along with some reflective ones. These are the kind of moments that shake you to the core. It’s all about life and the relationships we form along the way. That’s what shapes us and makes us who we ultimately become.
I remember hearing Jay Kesler address a group of college students about the loss of a good friend. He said, “You will spend your entire life looking for six good and reliable pall bearers who won’t drop your casket on your way to the grave. The older you get the harder it becomes to replace any of these friends if they die before you.”
It’s so true. Think about how many “friends” you might have on Facebook or “followers” you might have on Twitter. Then ask yourself, “At the end of my life will I be blessed to have a handful of life-long friendships – people with whom I actually lived life?” It’s those relationships that marked you and made you the person you are today. How do you honor those who have impacted you the most?
My wife and I have been richly blessed through the friendship of a ministry couple named Nico and Ingrid. God has allowed us to have some fantastic moments with them and to make some important memories that continue to impact our lives to this very day. After years of suffering with cancer, Ingrid went on to eternity. I was deeply moved by a painting and letter that she left her husband both honoring him and reminding him of the impact he had on her life:
Forever yours. Although I will release you on the day that I pass over to the other side and you will release me, I will still always be there. The painting represents darkness, but not the kind that we need to be afraid of. It is the darkness that comes when we close our eyes. When we fall asleep and our mind enters into a dream. There is color, there are memories, there are feelings, longings, and mysteries. Dreams that are filled with me and you. No disappointments, no hurt. Just love. Just me and you. Just little segments of colors in darkness. Me and you will meet. Until we see each other again in eternity. I love you, my husband. I will dream of you and you will dream of me. Maybe one day you will stop dreaming of me and start having new dreams. Let the painting always be a reminder that I release you to have new dreams and to dream big. Full of color, full of joy, full of new life. I love you my friend, my husband, and father of my children. You have given me so much. I’m so proud of you. Thank you for your care, your joy, your music, and a million other things. You are the best. Dream BIG Nico.
Wow! I’m not sure how many of us could muscle up to love like that in our relationships. But Ingrid was that kind of person. After she died, it amazed me to hear story after story about how her life had impacted so many people. I thought to myself, “That’s the way ministry should be. Lots of Friends = Big Impact.” How sad that ministry is so often a very lonely place!
“God loves the pure-hearted and well-spoken; good leaders also delight in their friendship.” (Proverbs 22:11, MSG)
I challenge you to identify your life-long friendships. The list could include your spouse, family members, coworkers, or friends. Write each one of them a note this week to thank them for their friendship and remind them of the impact they have had in your life. Reaffirm your commitment to them and their families for life. And as you do, keep this thought in mind: loving well requires finishing well!