The other day I tweeted that this has been one of those weeks when you find out who your friends are. No specific reason. I tagged on the well-known Jeremiah 29-19:11 just for good measure ("For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a hope and a future...").
An old friend responded with Exodus 17:12. I did not know this verse, so I consulted my drunken know-it all friend (as my son calls his smart phone). It's the one where Moses is holding up his outstretched arms while the Israelites fight the Amalekites. Whenever Moses' hands grew tired and he lowered them, the Israelites began losing the battle. When he raised them again they began winning. But when it became clear Moses was too exhausted to lift them any longer, two friends of his provided a rock upon which he might sit and then each stood on either side of him and held up his hands for him. "As a result," Exodus tells us, "Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek."
I have to admit that I'm not good with friends. I'm introverted and don't do the hard work of reaching out to people in friendship. Give me a good book and a quiet room and I'm perfectly happy.
Also, there's a lot that goes into being a friend, including loyalty, support, and belief — all traits displayed by Aaron and Hur as they held Moses' arms up. I often find myself lacking in those departments. The friendship traits of commitment and punctuality are completely lost on me. I cancel appointments at the last minute all the time, and when I do show up, it's invariably a few minutes late.
But in one of those awkward moments of clarity that God allows us to see every now and then, that shout-out for Exodus 17:12 has led to a number of remarkable instances over the last week, some affirming deep friendships and others revealing deep fissures in relationships that were tenuous to begin with. It's like God is poking me with a thick shepherd's crook. Jab, jab, jab. It's actually a bit overwhelming.
So my wife and I did what we always do when it's time to get away from reality: We went to Disneyland. Just thirty minutes up the 5. We wandered, the two of us, through the Magic Kingdom all yesterday. We only rode a couple rides. We talked about when the boys were young and how we'd come on a Friday night and spend an hour in line for Casey Junior. The point was to reconnect with each other and just hang out. The one thing I found myself noting was that no one walks through Disneyland alone. Mothers, daughters, sons, cousins, school friends — they all do the Diz together. By late afternoon I could see the inevitable fatigue set in as toddlers passed out in their strollers and couples argued about nothing at all. I overheard one man berating his crying wife, who in turn was arguing that he was an ass. But in the end it was clear that they were arguing because they loved one another.
I found this all strangely restorative.
And yes, I'm using Disneyland as a metaphor for life. Sometimes you've just got to go with it.
Friendship and conflict go hand-in-hand, as Moses showed us — hands outstretched overlooking a raging battle, two friends holding his hands aloft to affect the outcome.
This has been a week when I've found out who my friends are. Turns out I have quite a few. And they have come out of the woodwork to say some very kind things. So there it is — just me and Moses, hands held aloft at a time when a little uplifting goes a very long way.