Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Friend (11/02/17)
TITLE: Just Walk Beside Me
By Kathleen Muldoon
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When my exercise instructor informed me that she was having surgery, I told her I would keep her in prayer. She gave me a patronizing smile.
“If that makes you feel good, go for it,” she said. “I quit praying when I turned 10 and figured out that prayer is simply talking to oneself.”
Her response saddened but did not surprise me. I’ve heard her views on Christianity expressed by many in a variety of ways. Not too long ago, an acquaintance shared that as a child she remembers being forced to sing a “dumb song” at Sunday School about being Jesus’ friend.
“As soon as I hit 18, I quit,” she said. “Now I put Jesus on a same level as the imaginary friend I had when I was in kindergarten.”
I’ve often pondered my relationship with Jesus, especially as a “friend.” The New Testament is replete with stories of Jesus’ friendship with the Disciples, with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and with the marginalized of His time—the poor, the outcasts, and the despised. But what about His friendship with me, here and now? How is the risen Christ visible or tangible? How can He be a friend?
My concept of friendship begins with Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times…” Wow! Of all my friends, only Jesus fulfills this basic quality. When I am most unlovable, I can count on Jesus’ unconditional love to see me through.
A friend empathizes. Among my friends, Jesus understands more than any. He suffered grief, hurt, rejection, and betrayal. A friend supports. More times than I can count, I’ve felt Jesus’ arm around me when everyone else seems so far away. A friend communicates. Jesus speaks to me through his Word, through others, and through His touch. A friend gives; Jesus gave up His life for me. And, He gave me the gift of the Holy Spirit. There are no greater gifts.
It’s hard to explain to others the moments when I know Jesus is with me in a very real way. I just KNOW. These treasured experiences often occur in the middle of the night as I wrestle with difficult situations. If I quiet myself down and put the brakes on my mind, if I cry out “Enough! Help me, Lord,” it is then that I feel the peace that surpasses all understanding. And I KNOW.
One of my favorite quotes about friends is from French author and philosopher Albert Camus: “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” That describes my friendship with Jesus. He allows me to make mistakes and to wallow in self-pity and in the mire wrought from bad choices. At these times, He picks me up, dusts me off, and walks beside me on the Way.
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