This week's text, John 15:9-17, talks about Jesus' followers as his friends. John 15:13 reads, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
So needless to say, I've been thinking about friendship this week. Also burned in my brain is the following incident: I was recently chatting with a friend who happens to be a couple years older than me. I don't think of this that often and she doesn't either. In the course of our conversation, a mutual acquaintance came up and mentioned our age difference. The acquaintance proceeded to ask my friend why, since I was younger, I was already married and had a baby on the way. The underlying implication was that there was something wrong with the friend since she was so far behind the curve in these areas.
This compounds my mixed feelings about Mother's Day (Father's Day/Valentine's Day/Grandparent's Day/etc). Everyone does have a mother, but on that particular day- we acknowledge the people who are mothers. While I'm all for honoring your mother (see Proverbs 31), I think these specialized days also detract from the people for whom mothering conversations are painful.
Let me make it very, very clear that I fall into the camp of "not everyone is the same". Not everyone is married, a parent, single, white, purple, pierced, a veteran, peacenik, etc. And I don't believe it is possible to always offend none of the people all of the time. Sometimes, some people just aren't in a group. Sometimes you need to have a Bible study for married people. Sometimes for single people. Sometimes you honor parents. Sometimes you honor teachers. Not everyone is everything, but everyone is something.
We are called to abide in Christ, to bear one another's burdens in love and to lay down our lives for one another- at least those we consider friends. Therefore, beloved, it is important to consider each person as a person. A person's worth comes not from marital status, parenting status, age, rank or serial number, but because they are created and loved by God.
People are generally aware of their life circumstances and probably don't need you or me or anyone else to point it out to them. I know I'm 6 months pregnant. I don't need anyone to tell me or to try to guess how far along I am or to wonder if I am sure I'm only having one baby. Rejoice with me in a healthy pregnancy and give me good wishes for a safe birth. Be my friend.
Laying down your life may mean laying down the expectations that everyone has the same goals or is on the same timeline. It may also mean acknowledging that not everyone's goals are achieved in the time their heart desires. Be their friend.
Branches get intertwined and it can be hard to separate them, but apart from the vine- they bear no fruit. Sever not your fellow vines, but support them in mutual love and friendship. Be willing to lay down your life for them.