Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. —Mark Ambrose
Gary sat on the edge of the chair in my (Rich’s) office. He’d just picked out a Tesla Roadster at the dealership and wanted me to share his enthusiasm. I did. But, as he talked, I kept wondering, “Did he schedule a counseling appointment to talk about his car?”
“So, why did you choose the Roadster” I asked.
“Because, well . . . actually, that’s not why I stopped by.” He shifted in the chair and looked toward the door. “It’s Elise. She complains about my friends and sulks most of the time, and she says it’s my fault that we used to be,” he formed air quotes above his head, “best friends.”
“Maybe the car is why he stopped by?” I thought. So, I repeated the question.
“Gary, why did you buy the car?”
I knew the question confused him, but I waited for his response.
“Um, well, because two of the guys I play FIFA with love theirs, I guess. I wanted them to be impressed at the next LAN party. It’s at our house.”
For the next ten minutes Gary explained that even though Elise wanted more quality time together, his friends had encouraged him to work extra hours and during his paid vacation so he could afford the car on his IT salary. They even coached him on how to rearrange his home budget. Like a lot of us, Gary forgot that trying to please friends who matter the least often discourages the friend who matters most. None of us would overtly state, “I’d like to trade my relationship for a roadster.” But, unreliable friends and our covert thoughts can cause us to make poor decisions.
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
Like trying to play two computer games at the same time, Gary found himself constantly switching between two worlds – the world of his best friend and the world of his less reliable acquaintances.
Friendships always impact our character and it’s our character we fall in love with. When character changes, the love we feel changes with it. This is why Ambrose said the friends we choose, choose our futures. In a practical sense, who we like to spend time with the most, determines who we become the most like. Spending more time with the one whose character we fell in love with helps us choose a brighter future.
Who we like to spend time with the most, determines who we become the most like.Tweet this!
My (Marty’s) wife and I assign a simple friendship-building activity to the couples we work with at the university and our church. It works like this:
- Sit somewhere comfortable (kitchen table, restaurant) and disconnect from all social tech.
- Take a 3×5 card or a napkin and each of you writes three character qualities you would miss about your lover if you were traveling for business, the military, etc.
- Take turns sharing the items on your list while asking your lover, with light-hearted intonation, of course, to try to guess a specific event or situation you’re thinking of related to that specific character quality. For example: If you chose “I would miss your kindness,” your spouse might guess, “Was it the time I brought you coffee in bed?” or “the time I folded the laundry when it was your turn?”
- Keep trading off until you’ve made your way through each other’s lists.
This activity will help you laugh together and learn new ways of deepening and celebrating your friendship.
The lovers in the bible’s Song of Songs demonstrate the priority of their friendship through the careful words they choose and the activities they pursue together. Stanza after stanza they sing together about a companionship that brings contentment (shalom, 8:10). Even though other “friends” are mentioned in the Song, none of them are “unreliable.” Instead, they encourage the lovers and celebrate with them the many gifts in married love. She sings,
His mouth is sweetness itself; he is desirable in every way. Such, O women of Jerusalem, is my lover, my friend. Song of Songs 5:16 NLT
If we desire to start our marriage’s right, we need to stop trying to fit in with friends who aren’t actively supporting our marriages. We need to remind ourselves that our friends foreshadow our futures. They influence the kind of marriage we experience. And, we need to remember that every friendship, especially the friendship in marriage, in some way represents a beta of the relationship we will have in Heaven – the relationship we can enjoy the many deep and delightful flavors of today. This is part of the reason Jesus reminded his disciples,
I no longer call you servants . . . Instead, I have called you friends. John 15:15
Rich and I experience this kind of relational closeness with our wives, LouAnna and Linda, almost every day. In our combined 93 years of marriage, 79 years of couples counseling and 42 years of friendship, we’ve seen the ruin and the romance that come with one’s choice of friends.