I am an introvert. Those who know me primarily through a pastoral relationship might beg to differ; after all they typically see me in front of lots of people doing things that would seem counter-intuitive to introversion. And yet, when removed from the platform of proclamation, I am most certainly a quiet, keep-to-myself kind of guy. I prefer to stay at home with my beautiful wife and children than to meet up with a group of 10 people for dinner and a movie. I prefer to watch a horror movie I’ve seen a thousand times all by myself than go to a concert and be put in the middle of a throng of folks. I prefer to read a book on my comfy couch than pretty much anything else I can think of.
Don’t get me wrong – I love people. I even love large gatherings of people. When I visit Gatlinburg, TN in the fall (the most beautiful time of the year), I want to see the streets of Gatlinburg bustling with families and crowded with wide-eyed tourists. That makes it special. The old Christmas song Silver Bells captures it well: “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style, in the air there’s a feeling of Christmas.” Sometimes the sheer busyness and excitement of people gathered in one area makes that particular moment feel right. My brother and I love theme parks. We travel all over the country to experience all the thrills imaginable. Although the most special aspect of those trips is just being with my brother (there’s my introversion), we would both agree that a packed, bustling theme park carries something special with it.
I’ve said all of that to say this – despite my introversion and despite my contentment to be with just family, I don’t know where I would be without friends. Real friends. Not the casual co-worker who you are cordial with and share sports stories. Not the group of folks that might accompany you to a movie or a restaurant. Those relationship have benefit as well. But I mean the kind of friends who just know. They just know when they need to be there. They just know when they need to speak. They just know when they need to keep quiet. They just know when you aren’t being you. They just know.
Andi and I have been on the receiving end of friends – real friends – for the past couple of weeks. As it turns out, these friends of ours are also our brothers and our sisters in Christ. And I suppose, in the most special kind of way, that is where true friendship is really found. When the friend is actually family. As a church member so eloquently spoke to me last week, “Pastor Philip, you are my pastor, but you are also family.”
So, I thank God for friends today. We would not be enjoying our new home without them. We would not be pursuing Christ without them. We would not be us without them. Don’t overlook the value of your true friends.
After all, they’re family.