CHAPTER ONE

SAM

“I wonder if people will ever say, ‘Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring.’ And they’ll say, ‘Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories. Frodo was really courageous, wasn’t he, dad.’ ‘Yes, my boy, the most famousest of hobbits. And that’s saying a lot.’ ”

FRODO

“You left out one of the chief characters. ‘Samwise the Brave. I want to hear more about Sam. Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam.’ ”

I have a confession to make.

This revelation will be no surprise to those who call me friend. In fact, this tidbit won’t even surprise those who merely consider me an acquaintance, because if you’ve ever seen me behind the wheel of a car, you’d know that I am a terrible driver. I’d love to minimize this reality by saying that I was never trained properly, or that sometimes I just get in too much of a hurry, yet the reality is that I simply speed too much, cut people off, and often find myself the recipient of the national hand gesture reserved for the worst in our society.

Wow. I feel better. Confession really is good for the soul. Thanks.

Hold on! Some of you are wanting to dive a little deeper and explore why I have these tendencies. Alright, Dr. Freud, I’ll explain. It isn’t because I have an antipathy towards the local law enforcement. In fact, I’ve made friends with many of these public servants through our frequent interactions. It isn’t because I believe these traffic laws to be unimportant
and irrelevant to our modern society. On the contrary; I’ve traveled to places like India, Nepal, and Burbank where traffic laws are virtually nonexistent. I support the police and believe these road rules are absolutely necessary.

Okay, Josh! Then why in the world are you such a bad driver? It’s simple. I just see myself as an exception to the rule.

It is here we find so many in the human race. In general, we know that friendships are essential to a healthy life, yet we often see ourselves as the exception to the general rule.

Why are friends so necessary to the human experience? Let me share with you three reasons:

Breathe Freely – Masks Are Not Required

They like you, and that feels fantastic!

Do you ever feel like you have to keep up a certain persona? You know—as if you have to act a certain way around certain people in order to retain their goodwill and kindness? Here’s

the great thing about a true friend—you can be you! This is probably why Heather and I feel so close to Mike & Alana Brown. Mike and I have only become close over the last few years, but our wives have been best friends since our days in college they happened to be roommates.

We are never more authentically Josh & Heather than when we are around friends like this. There is no pretense. There are no attempts to prove our importance, our holiness, or our coolness. We are simply us. They like us, and we like them. I’m blessed because I’ve been given more than my fair share of this kind of relationships. Later in this book I will discuss how to attract this type of friendships and cultivate this kind of acceptance in your closest relationships.

We live in a world that has become obsessed with wearing masks, and this development is not simply a response to COVID-19. Authenticity is the rarest commodity, and for good reason. We are told from childhood to mask our thoughts and keep our mouths closed.

When a fat man, in a red t-shirt and long white beard, enters the room, a seven-year-old girl is supposed to say nothing.

When the old lady sitting in church makes a noise that the entire pew could hear, a seven-year-old boy isn’t allowed to laugh.

We teach our children these behaviors because living in a polite society is preferable to living in Neverland with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Decorum is important, but so is letting loose. The little boy has to laugh with somebody about this.

The little girl has to ask the question that is burning inside of her.

As humans, we need moments of authenticity. More so, we need people with whom we can be entirely genuine.

Perhaps the clearest example of this is found in a healthy sibling relationship.

If you ever look at large families who happen to remain close throughout the years, you’ll discover they have this policy deeply embedded in their family code. No masks are required. In fact, they are not even allowed. Authenticity, vulnerability, and “being real” are valued at a far greater premium

than minor things like career advancement and financial independence. We like each other, not in spite of the fact that we know everything about each other, but because we know everything about each other. There are no masks.

You are free to be you, and they like you.
So, here’s my question:
With whom do you have this type of relationship?

Face-to-Face Confrontation

Authenticity is a high-risk, high-reward proposition. When you really take off all of the masks, you’re going to reveal some warts. When you allow someone to look into your heart, they are certain to uncover the more unattractive parts of your soul. When you show a true friend who you really are, they are likely to confront you when you are wrong.

THIS IS A GOOD THING!

Josh Irmler and I have been friends since we were 14-years- old. We met at a summer camp in Flagstaff, Arizona called West Branch of the Bill Rice Ranch. I love telling this story because it makes me look like the hero. I had just arrived for the summer with backpack in one hand, sleeping bag in the other, and a smile on my face as I walked past the bustling

basketball court and into the adjacent cabin. This would be my home for the summer. When I walked into the sparsely decorated kitchen, I saw a kid my age sitting on the ground leaning against the cabinetry with tears in his eyes. He quickly wiped his nose with his sleeve and stood up in manner that said, “I’m cool. I’m not crying. You’re crying.”

Even to this day, Irmler will lie about this event. He doesn’t “remember it” the same way I do. Yeah, sure.

“What’s wrong, man?” I said with the perfect mix of empathy and indifference.

“Those guys are jerks and won’t let me play basketball,” he said.

“Basketball is stupid, and you’re too short anyway.” Dropping my Jansport and holding out my hand I said, “My name is Josh. What’s your name?”

A few years ago, Josh and I established a ministerial association for pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and Christian leaders called The Idea Network. The mission was to provide inspirational and collaborative environments (both virtual and real-world) in which a Christian leader can share methodological ideas, philosophical ideas, and theological ideas without fear of embarrassment or reprisal. The network took off like a rocket. Hundreds of ministry leaders were attending our events, doors were being opened to us that were previously closed, and we were offered several opportunities we never saw coming.

I remember one such opportunity that led to a bold confrontation where Josh had to put me in my place. We were developing a very large event for the Idea Network. Hundreds of pastors were going to attend. Thousands of lives would be directly or indirectly influenced by this one event. We were in final negotiations with the keynote speaker we really wanted when we learned his stipulations. He wanted final approval
on the music we would play at the event. He wanted final approval on the event sponsors, event speakers, and even what books would be sold at the book tables.

I was ready to do whatever it took to get our keynote speaker of choice. I was singularly focused on the goal. I was willing to do whatever I had to do to accomplish the goal. If I had
to compromise the integrity of the event, I’d do it. If I had to water down the mission of the Idea Network, I’d do it. If I had to sell out the vision, I’d sell out the vision.

Josh, however, was much wiser. “I think we say no.”

I was pretty upset. It’s like he didn’t even care about all the work we had put into this thing. It was like he didn’t even see the possibility of what this could do for the network.

“Look Josh,” he said, “once you start giving in on these things, it’ll never stop. Each of our events will be subject to the whims and preferences of the newest speaker we seek to pursue. You need to know who you are, what God wants you to do, and stop trying to please every potential delegate, ministry leader, and prominent preacher in America.” He gravely looked me in the eyes and said, “I’ve seen it before man. Once you start capitulating, you’ll never be able to stop. Don’t worry about pleasing them, worry about pleasing God.”

In the first story I’m the hero because I showed a little kindness. In the second story he’s the hero because he showed boldness.

Do you have someone in your life who will challenge you and confront you? Do you have someone who can encourage you to change direction when they see you going off course? Who do you have in your life that can speak honestly when they see you hurting yourself and others?

You need this kind of friend because:

Tragedy will Strike

It was only hours before Jesus would be betrayed, turned
over to the Romans, and crucified. He wasn’t confused about what came next. The cross was His destiny. It was the ultimate reason for His incarnation.

John 13:1-4 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

He knew what was going to happen, yet still He was troubled.

Matthew 26:36-39 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

In what direction did Jesus turn when facing trouble and tragedy? He turned to His Father, the God of all creation. Who did Jesus want with Him in this crucible moment? HIS FRIENDS. That very night, we see Jesus shifting the way He referred to the disciples.

John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

At this point I could easily transition to the “you think you’re stronger than Jesus?” part of the chapter, but I think you get the point.

Here is my question; who will you turn to when tragedy strikes? When your child is in the ICU after the accident? When you lose your job and seriously contemplate suicide? When find out about the affair, the diagnosis, or the closure?

I know that there are some who will sanctimoniously proclaim, “I will take my sorrows to Jesus.”

Hear me out! I’m not saying that I disagree. Jesus, and Jesus alone, can bring clarity in the midst of chaos and calm the disquiet of the human soul. One of the ways He does this is to bring friends – other human beings – into our lives to help us through moments of difficulty and sorrow. It was in that same upper room, during the last supper that Jesus told his friends that He would be leaving them. The band that had traveled together for over three years was now breaking up. Jesus was returning to the Heavenly Father. So, what new command would he give this group of friends prior to His departure?

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

He wanted them to love one another. He wanted them to remain friends, care for one another, and teach others to do likewise. Jesus knew what these men were facing. Persecution, poverty, and martyrdom would be seen by each one of these disciples. Jesus wanted them to face these things together.

Are you facing the tragedies of life on your own? You weren’t meant to.

Friendships are essential to a healthy life. No, you are not the exception to the rule.

Friends are necessary to the human experience because we
all need someone with whom we can be completely ourselves. We all need someone who can lovingly confront us in our stupidity. We all need someone who will be there for us when tragedy strikes.

But now you may be asking yourself, “How do I make good friends?”

You just read the first chapter of my book:

The Quest for Friendship

You can buy the book at the link below. Use the Promo Code FREESHIPPING.

https://www.ideanetwork.church/product-page/a-quest-for-friendship-1

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