FROM THE 'DEEP' END: I get by with a little help from my friends

Eric Partin
Eric Partin

This July marks 30 years that my wife Darlene and I have been married. We met while we were both working at the old Sand Flea restaurant on Okaloosa Island. We would hang out with each other at work all the time and I constantly flirted with her. At the time I rode my bike everywhere and would carry everything in a backpack, including a small iron so I could iron my work shirt. One day Darlene offered to iron my shirt for me and I thought, "Maybe she's the one." Then she offered to take my shirts home to wash and iron them for me and I knew she was the one!

Actually, what made me so sure Darlene was the one was our friendship that was strong from the very beginning. We loved a lot of the same things like the beach and sailing, and especially Saturday Night Live. We were always quoting Bill Murray to each other and she had a perfect Roseanne Roseannadanna impression. Thirty-two years later, we are still best friends and she still does a great Roseanne Roseannadanna impression.

Have you ever have been sitting in a restaurant and seen that married couple where there is no conversation, no connectivity and no spark? They are just eating and staring. Maybe they're both on their phones and not paying attention to one another. How does that happen? How do two people start out in love and then have nothing in common years down the road. Maybe you once saw those couples and thought you'd never be like that, but now it's been a few years and you are in the same situation with your spouse, yet you still don't understand how you got there.

At the beginning of a relationship you feel very connected to the other person. You feel the butterflies in your stomach and you think about that person all the time. What is it that happens after two years, 10 years or 20 years that cause those feelings to disappear? If your relationship is built on those feelings, it can feel like the bottom has dropped out of your relationship. The answer isn't to keep chasing those feelings, but instead base your relationship on something that lasts: friendship. Friendship is the soil where all good relationships grow.

Those words carry a lot of truth in them. In the book of Proverbs, the author Solomon explained a key to a great friendship. In chapter 8, verse 24 he wrote,

"A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

If we want to have great relationships, than we need to base them in strong friendships, and if we want strong friendships we need to learn how to be a good friend. How do we do that?

First of all, we have to learn to be vulnerable. Modern society has made this a lot harder for us because we conflate vulnerability with disclosure. Because of social media we know a lot of data about our friends, but we might not always know what's really going on with them personally. Being vulnerable means asking the tough questions with a friend and being willing to answer them as well.

Opening yourself up to another person is difficult, but loyalty makes it so much easier. Loyalty is the decision you make to look out for someone else's needs before you look out for yourself. When things get hard you don't bail on the other person, you stick with them and see the situation through. Like a firefighter to a burning building, loyalty causes you to move toward a friend through tough situations.

 If you want to live a life of loyalty, you'll also have to learn a life of forgiveness. People aren't perfect and someone you care about is bound to let you down at some point. The truth is, you will let someone down that you care about at some point. Solomon also said in Proverbs 19:11,

 "A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense."

Whether your relationship needs just a boost or is on life support, the best place to start is to rebuild your friendship and become a better friend.

Pastor Eric Partin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Destin and can be reached at ericpartin@shorelinechurch.net.