Fort McCoy News Aug. 12, 2016

Faith: A friend in need or a friend in deed?

Garrison Chaplain, Fort McCoy

Don't you just love telemarketers? If you did not grasp my sarcasm, then my response is, "No!"

And I would not be the only one because millions of people have put themselves on the "do not call" list. Many people do not like their lives encumbered with people who have only one interest in you — as a potential customer. Their goal or their only interest in you is to sell you a product or a service.

In my experience, both personal and otherwise, many friendships are becoming like telemarketing. It is no longer (true) friendship for friendship's sake, but it is now becoming more and more about what the person can gain from the friendship or from you. And the sad thing about this situation is that you might not find out until you are in the midst of a crisis — a time that might call for true friendships may leave you forsaken and disappointed.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Ike Eweama

Perhaps telemarketers are not so bad in the end. With them, you know their goal from the onset. Many of us are telemarketers in our friendships, but we hide our intentions. We reach out only when we need our needs to be met by the person. And when the person is struck with adversity or when the person can no longer meet that particular need, we disappear. What do you do with friends who abandon you in the face of adversity?

I remember my mother's words to me the day I left the shores of Nigeria: "My son, always remember that prosperity makes friends and adversity counts them."

After all these years, I have come to remember my mother's words and the meaning of those words. How true! You get to know your true friends in the face of adversity!

In primary school, many teachers would give us essays to write on what we would do if we were to become friends with the president of the country. In this age and time, many of us will use the opportunity to enrich ourselves and our family members. What would you do if you were to become friends with an ordinary person? What would you do if you were to become friends with an ordinary person in times of trials, in times of needs?

I have always thought it a privilege to become friends with an ordinary person, especially one with a burden. I am thinking about the challenges that we face daily in our personal and professional lives. I am thinking about challenges we face as immigrants in a foreign country. I am thinking about the challenges we face as Christians and as a community. I am thinking about the challenges we face as spouses, parents, and friends.

I am also thinking about the many of us who would like to tell a friend about some of these burdens but are hampered by the perceived consequence of such action. I do not know any who do not carry a burden or two that we would like to divulge to our so-called friends. But we are unable to do so because we do not want them to run away. We do not want them to judge us.

How is your friendship? How have you been a friend? Or are you a telemarketer hiding in the cloak of friendship?

Many of us were made to believe that acquisition of multiple degrees or money would afford us higher relational skills, a social circle to confront the vicissitudes of life, and the opportunity to learn graciously among friends. My personal experience has made it clear to me that no amount of education or wealth can bring true friendship or enable one to fight back the adversities in life in a sustainable social community.

Yes, we have been disappointed by a friend or two. I cannot begin to expound on the many lives that have been disabled by those they had trusted the most — husbands, wives, parents, friends, church affiliation as well as other social network, etc.

Do I dare start with the experience of a good Christian woman whose husband left her for another woman because he wanted a male offspring? Do I dare write that her social circle disappeared with him? Her friendships disappeared and failed her woefully.
Who were those who made her a social anathema? Were they true friends? Were they fellow Christians?

What about a beloved friend who is going through the crucible of crucifixion in her marriage because "his royal highness" has not endorsed her independent thinking, the new professional path that she is treading — a path of honor and truth? His royal highness decided to make her life a miniature hell by withholding emotional and sometimes financial support. Her friendship with her spouse failed her. Her prince charming has failed her.

I have another friend who was deeply involved in church and enjoyed superior health but was suddenly struck with an illness that kept him homebound. He spoke of the loneliness he felt and I wondered where all the many friends he had both in Church and outside went.

He lamented like the biblical Job: "I have become a laughingstock to my friends, though I called upon God and he answered — a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless!" (Job 12:3-5)

How does one face these difficulties in the midst of failing and unsustainable friendships?

I do not believe and also can see it in other people's experiences that I am privy to say that Western education and civilization have not adequately prepared us to face the future without too much trust on these weak lifelines. The common people like you and me have no tools for this tedious journey called life and the inconsistencies of friendships. This was the exact sordid condition that the world was facing when God in his divine providence presented us with his son.

He gave us a choice to a new and better way to face life — an anchor. It is where we face life with a lifeline that will and has never failed. The anchor in true friendship is Jesus — a lifeline given to us by God himself that we have the choice to either accept or to reject. Is your friendship anchored in Jesus and, ultimately, in God?

Jesus said to his disciples, mostly fishermen: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:14-16)

A good friend should be like a fisherman. Father William Maestri said, "To be a successful fisherman, one has to be patient as well as alert to seize the moment; one has to be gentle as well as strong; and one must know the power of the lure in catching fish.
A good fisherman knows how to walk with others and is able to read the signs offered by nature. To misread the current or the mind is to miss out on today's catch. The fisherman must learn to live with uncertainty, complexity, and forces beyond his control."

My father once told me that life is like a kindergarten teacher. It teaches you a lesson, and if you were unable to grasp it at that moment, it repeats it as often as it takes you to learn the lesson.

The reality about life and friendship is that both are full of inconsistencies. There are true as well as telemarketinglike friendships.
Our problem, many times, is that we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves or allow others to set them for us. We set unrealistic expectations in our friendships.

We have not accepted that in our journey through life that there are different times, events, and friends in our lives that God put in place for each and every one for His plan and purposes. So, when we realize this, we either let go of our disappointments and rely on God or become better friends anchored in Christ.

This means that we quit judging our friends and abide by Jesus' reprimand: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:1-3)

We certainly wouldn't want to be judged in the same way we judge others — so leave the judging to God, and focus on correcting your own weaknesses instead.

Focus on being a true friend instead of a telemarketer; focus on being a true friend in the face of adversity or in times of need.
A true friend is one who sticks with you no matter what the circumstances. "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (Proverbs 17:17)

And for those who have been hurt by these friendships, remember what the prophet said: "But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.'" (Isaiah 43)

You are God's. In God, you have true friendship, and you belong to Him. Friendships might come and go, but God and your relationship with Him endures forever.