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The Long Road of Friendship with God

My wife, Jill, is my best friend. 

When I first laid eyes on her 30 years ago, I knew only that she was beautiful and being in the same room with her took my breath away. That still holds immensely true today. But in our earliest days, my depth of emotion was still immature and driven by self-interest. I loved the way she made me feel. I hadn’t yet journeyed to truly learn the depths of her heart. 

The truth is that Jill became my “best friend” slowly, over a million moments…

of pursuit and discovery,

of trial and error,

of conversation and sitting in silence together,

of laughter and tears,

of misstep and forgiveness and trying again,

of showing up for each other in the big things and the mundane,

of taking risks and holding on, ‘come what may.’

Infatuation can work as a one-way consumer street, but it is a short and shallow path. True friendship is only forged in mutual pursuit, over a multitude of moments that become etched into memories over time

Jill has become my most precious friend and my truest love over a lifetime. I’m convinced it is the same way with God. When we first come to see His beauty or to taste His grace, it can be intoxicating and fill us with all of the butterflies of young romance. But many never realize the invitation beneath the surface to pursue God “as a friend.” Jesus said that He calls us His “friends,” and He is inviting us to return the gaze.

Here’s the great news: the God who formed you in your mother’s womb already knows you. Before a thought can move from your mind to your lips, God already knows it completely. He knows the number of hairs on your head, each of the days He has ordained for you, the calling He knit deeply into your soul, and everything about you. Whenever your heart wants to condemn you, God whispers over your soul that He is “greater than your heart and He knows everything,” lavishing you once again in the unending depths of His love.  What’s more, when you were at your absolute worst, “while you were his enemy,” Jesus adored you, and called YOU "the joy set before Him,” as He willingly scorned the shame of the Cross for you.* 

Whether or not you know it yet, God is already and forever your deepest and truest friend.

Our growing in “friendship with God” is, in reality, the yielded path of discovery that comes from our side. With that in mind, here are 4 practical encouragements to discover intimacy with the God who delights in you today!

Be Vulnerable

For YEARS, my relationship with God was marked by such fear at the disparity between His worthiness and my great propensity to screw things up, I unknowingly curated a “photo-filtered” relationship that attempted to only let Him see my best side. I spent exhaustive effort in my conversations with God to only say the right things, while I buried my true fears, prejudices, doubts, and all of the junk I was afraid might change His mind about me. The reality is that God already knew ALL of it. It was me who needed to learn how to be honest. 

Have you ever read how raw some of the Psalms are? 

There is one where the psalmist is so distraught over the heartbreak his enemies have caused his people, he says that he wishes God would “dash their infants heads against a rock.” And God not only allowed this level of unfiltered angst to draw near to His throne…He put it in the HYMNAL! Can you imagine singing THAT one on a Sunday morning? 

God didn’t allow this because this was in HIS heart. Surely not. He is the God who dies for His enemies. God committed it to scripture, because this is the level of courageous honesty God desires from us. He begs us to make a beeline to Him, bringing all of our “unfiltered” emotions and every place we feel “undone.” What would it look like to drop every defensive guard and to get honest about the ugliest places you’ve tried to keep hidden? I know the answer: it would look like healing

Show Up

There has been no greater ally in getting to know the heart of my wife than the gift of TIME. Our priority to show up in both planned and unplanned moments in each other’s schedules deepens our relationship in ways nothing else can.

I have done the same in my relationship with God. My best and most consistent times of spiritual growth have been marked by “dates with God” that I have put on my calendar and made a priority. My planned times with God look like prayer walks and time studying His Word. But the key has been for me to plan and prioritize it. Otherwise, the tyranny of the urgent always finds a way to fill my calendar. 

I also delight in a million unexpected moments with God between meetings and the happenings of my everyday. It might happen as I catch the sunrise, or read a friend’s text, see an inspiring or funny video, or come face-to-face with a heart-rending need. Suddenly, my mind turns to God, and I simply draw near. In this way, I truly find myself “praying continually."

Choose JOY

Your friendship with God needs to look like YOU. If you hate your devotional life, you’re doing it wrong! Look for the way God made you to come alive and do that.

I love walks and open space. I’m a verbal processor, so my prayer life is super simple. I call it “hands down, hands up.” In my “hands down” time, I “cast my cares on the Lord,” telling Him everything I am processing, dreaming, and thinking, for as long as it takes. If it matters to me, it headlines my prayer walks. Then, when I’m done saying what’s on my mind, I simply take a moment to turn my palms upward and ask, “What would you say to me this morning, Lord?” And I keep walking for a bit. I don’t try to conjure something up or make anything happen. I simply leave space. Sometimes, it is just peaceful. Other times, I hear prompts that my heart hurries to write down on my phone. But what “happens” on the prayer walk isn’t the point, but rather that the prayer walk happened!

Some of my friends love listening to an audio Bible in their car. Others come alive watching “The Chosen.” Some write poetry or paint. Still others love talking about God (theology) and to God (prayer) with their friends. Give yourself permission to do what makes you come alive! God knit that passion in you, after all.

Give Yourself Grace (He is!)

One final note: you aren’t going to get it all right, and this isn’t God’s expectation of you. After all, He begged for you only to come with “faith like a child.” Children are messy. As they are still figuring the world, there is rarely a day that passes where they will fail to put their foot in their mouth (figuratively or literally). But children are also still unafraid to lived filled with wonder as they run full-tilt to experience everything life has to offer. This is what God desires from me and you: to simply breathe in this moment and show up as His kid. Then, just watch what happens with you and your best friend as the moments become memories. 

I’m cheering for you, friend...and so is your BEST friend!


*For the scriptures referred to in this blog celebrating how deeply God knows you, see: Psalm 139:1-5; Matthew 10:30; Psalm 139:16; Jeremiah 1:5; 1 John 3:1, 20; Romans 5:10, and Hebrews 12:2.

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