High school sucked. I was focused on all the wrong things. I needed approval and wanted to fit in. It seems like most guys had a particular group they wanted to or did fit in with. I wanted to fit in with everyone and therefore didn’t fit in with anyone.
I thought I had good friends. They were good, but I didn’t know what a friend really was. They ended up just being guys who wanted to get drunk together. Maybe none of us knew how to “fit in” so we escaped with the alcohol. I remember wishing I would get a phone call from anyone besides my usual cast of 16 year-old drunks to go do something. It never happened.
I had stopped going to church because that wasn’t cool anymore (after middle school years of choir, bell choir, and youth groups). I dropped out of the German Club because that certainly wasn’t cool. One of my sisters got the golf coach to agree to put me on the golf team, so I would be cool – but I sucked and never got to play – so that wasn’t cool. I did my homework every night and that certainly wasn’t cool – and people copied it from me every morning – and while that seemed cool, it wasn’t.
I was lost. Every peer, commercial, TV show, song on the radio, and magazine was telling me I wasn’t normal unless I was masturbating or having sex – and as much as I tried, it wasn’t happening, so I assumed it was one more thing that made me worse than not cool. I pretty much made straight A’s when I wanted to but school was boring. It was so boring that a friend and I would go to 7-11 before class at 7am and buy a six-pack of Mickey’s Beer and slam 3 each before math class (we chose Mickey’s because it supposedly got you the most drunk). It at least made math a little more fun.
I remember when The Rolling Stones released Waiting on a Friend (you can check out Pearl Jam’s cover of it here on Hype Machine). I think it was my senior year. I played it over and over and over. It shocked me. It gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe someone else suffered the same thing as me.
Don’t need a whore. I don’t need no booze….I’m just waiting on a friend.
When college came along, I thought I had finally discovered friendship by being in a fraternity. I’m still close friends with many of them, but for the most part it was high school times ten. More and more pressure for sex, alcohol, drugs, and fitting in.
I may not have needed a “virgin priest” like Mick Jagger sang, but I needed a friend. I just didn’t have a clear definition of what that meant. Mick tried to help by saying, “I need someone I can cry to, I need someone to protect“, but I didn’t get that either because it wasn’t cool to cry, right? Plus it was all about me so why would I worry about protecting someone else?
I pretty much spent from 1979 to 2005 without a relationship with God or a local church and had no Christian mentors that I was aware of to guide me or teach me or show me their relationship with Christ. I pursued money, power, and sex like I thought I was supposed to. I used to wish I could turn the clock back and get a do-over based on what I know now. But now I realize that God has some pretty huge plans for me to help Him teach young men today what real friends are.
Some might call it being in “community”. Some might call it being loved. Some might call it being part of “the church” (where everyone loves and supports each other, right?). It could be all of that. But I think it is easier than that. I think a real friend is someone I can (and should) confess my most darkest secrets to, someone I can call at 3am who will answer and not be pissed off, someone I care about enough to mean it when I ask how they are doing, someone who means it when they ask me how I’m doing, someone who will hold me accountable to do what I say I’m going to do and what I need to do, someone to call me out when I screw up, someone who trusts me, someone I trust, someone whose needs I put before mine, someone who puts my needs before theirs, and I could probably go on and on.
I think Joe Cocker may say it best in his 1969 cover of the Beatle’s With a Little Help from My Friends when he sings, “I need someone to love“. (you can check it out here on Hype Machine).
Wow. I bet most people don’t believe you can have many true or real friends like that. They’re wrong. You can. If you don’t already have them, the best and fastest way to get them is to be that kind of friend to others first – while being self-less and not expecting anything in return. Put their needs before your own. Before you know it, you’ll have more real friends than you ever imagined.
Funny thing is that all of that is taught all throughout the Bible. If I’d only realized that at age 16 I might have prevented a lot of the harm and heartache that I caused.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16
I don’t think James was just making a suggestion. I believe it is truth and that the “healing” he is refering to is the kind that makes life exciting and fulfilling and filled with joy. It takes a real friend to be able to confess and pray with.
“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” – John 13:17
John 13 is the story about how Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Afterwords, Jesus says, “I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you.” His point is to get us to serve each other, putting others’ needs before our own, and that none of us are better than another.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another.” – John 13:34
Yep, Jesus said it straight up – a new command – not a recommendation – to love one another. That’s what real friends do. But I guess by Jesus’ definition the entire world is supposed to be real friends then. Wow. What would that look like? Oh yeah. Heaven. One of these days…