“Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.” (Proverbs 18:24, NLT)

Some friends don’t play games. They’re all-in with you and they’re in it for the long haul. We call them Companions.

The Companion is someone who…

  • is always there for you, whatever the circumstances
  • you share a bond with, one that is virtually unbreakable
  • you call when something big happens, whether good or bad
  • can sense where you’re headed before you you know it yourself
  • takes pride in your relationship and will sacrifice for your benefit
  • you might be willing to put your life on the line for (Tom Rath, Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without)

An example of this is the friendship between my mom and my Aunt Lali, pictured here with my famously good-looking Uncle Charlie. They met as young women. Soon they were young moms, then parents of teenagers. We’ve got photos of them in every season of life. Why? Because they stuck together through thick and thin. That’s what Companion friends do.

Here’s what you need to know if you want to have (and to become) a Companion.

You May Not Have Much in Common at First 

Someone has said that behind every successful man is a surprised mother-in-law. Someone else has said that there is one difference between an in-law and an outlaw…an outlaw is wanted. Of course, such things might be more humorous if they were not so true. We don’t always find it easy to earn the respect of our in-laws.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that a book of the Bible is named after a daughter-in-law. That book is the Book of Ruth, which tells the story of a heartbroken woman’s friendship with her daughter-in-law. It’s inspiring, poetic, and redemptive, but it didn’t start out that way.

At the outset, Naomi and Ruth didn’t have much in common. They were from different generations, countries, and religions. They spoke different languages and had different ways of looking at things. All the two women had in common was Naomi’s son, whom Ruth had married. When he died, it appeared there was nothing left to bind them.

Still, they persisted. They survived and in the end, they thrived.

Don’t write people off just because they’re younger or older than you. Value people who have a different background than you do. Even when things start out kind of bumpy, don’t rush to judgment. Your disappointments may become God’s appointments. You may discover that someone who seems like an odd duck is actually an angel in disguise.

We never know what God has up his sleeve.

Some Endings Are Necessary

In his book, Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud talks about “the employees, businesses, and relationships that all of us have to give up in order to move forward.” Sometimes relationships must come to an end.

Think of the way gardeners prune their rose bushes. They cut away diseased or competing branches and prune dead or dying stems. Wny? So the plant can flourish. With careful pruning, a wilting plant can blossom. Dr. Cloud explains how the same is true for humans and their relationships. Life changes. People change. We change. Sometimes we have to do some pruning.

Naomi’s life seemed pruned to the root. After the LORD gave her a husband and two sons, he took them away. She said, “The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:21, NASB). Since both boys had married and she had two daughters-in-law, Naomi encouraged both young widows to look out for themselves and go home. When one of them did, Naomi kissed her and blessed her. It was a painful but necessary ending to their very tender relationship.

There Will Be Forks in the Road

A friendship doesn’t have to be unhealthy for an ending to be necessary. Sometimes life places a fork in the road.

Yogi Berra famously said, “When you see a fork in the road, take it.” Whatever he meant by that, there is a truth to accept: sometimes circumstances force your hand and you have to make choices. Changes lead to other changes which affect many other things.

For example, taking a new job may change where you work. If you’re not in the cubicle next door you may not have lunch with the same group of friends. This may not be easy, but it’s natural. It’s how it must be. It’s a necessary ending. Sometimes, when you really love somebody, you have to let them go. That’s why Naomi could look into the teary eyes of a beloved daughter-in-law and let her go. 

All you can do is embrace, weep, and say a tearful goodbye.

It’s Not About Luck

“Luck has nothing to do with it because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.” – Serena Williams

The ball may bounce one way or another. You may get bad breaks or benefit from those bounces. But you don’t get into a Grand Slam tennis tournament on the basis of pure luck. Serena worked hard to get there. That’s the way it is for people with successful careers or relationships. It takes a lot of hard work to make things work.

Bonnie and I are lucky to have each other, but you don’t stay together for 38 years due to luck. It’s about countless hours of working on a relationship. When I started my coaching business, someone said, “The way to win the game is to stay in the game.” In other words, if you want to be successful, don’t quit. 

Ruth didn’t quit. She could have walked away but chose to stay. Again, there is a time to do leave. One of Naomi’s daughters-in-law left and there was no shame in it. The other didn’t and has a book of the Bible named after her.

Naomi thought it was time to part company, but Ruth saw things differently. She felt they didn’t share a past, but a future. She felt that their common loss made them perfect companions. As God began to coordinate a series of unlikely events, both women drew closer to him and to one another. 

In the end, theirs became one of the beautiful friendships in Scripture. From it, we get the famous statement that says, 

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17).

Treasure Your Companions

My mom and my precious Aunt Lali were together through life — through every age and stage — true friends for over sixty years. Lots of people have sisters-in-law, but these two were so much more. They were companions, sharing one another’s joys and sorrows right up to last year when my mom went home to be with Jesus.

Companion friends are priceless. Priceless means rare. You may not have large numbers of Companion friends, so when you do, be sure to treasure them.

Takeaways

  1. Can you name loyal, long-term companions who have been good to you? Cherish them. Tell them. Make time for them. 
  2. Are there friends with whom it’s time for a necessary ending? Love them. Bless them. Let them go.
  3. Are you a Companion friend? A loyal friend to the end?  Be the friend you hope to have.

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