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As I write this I have in my mind a small group of guys whom I call brothers. I use the word brothers not friends, I do it on purpose. I’m not sure that I’d be comfortable drawing too fine a definitional border between the words, but in the case of these men, the word friend is overshadowed by the word brother. These are not just guys I enjoy being around. They are not just guys I backpack with, or discuss books with. Not just guys I have known for many years.

These are brothers that I trust.

If one of these brothers brings me a word of criticism, I do not take it with a grain of salt. I take it.
I freely admit to them my faults and my self doubts. They are allowed to call me on my crap – and they know it. They know it because I’ve told them so. We don’t always agree, in fact we’ve had some great arguments, but they are safe arguments. We can be at odds and still honor one another. We can become passionate without attacking one another.

One of these brothers I meet with weekly. Most every Wednesday morning at 6 am we fight over who gets to pay for the cheap mediocre coffee at the local fast food dive. Then we sit, rubbing the sleep from our eyes, and talk. Sometimes we just just shoot the breeze, others we dump a weeks worth of burdens on the table and sort through them together. We encourage one another, we remind each other who we really are and where we’re each heading. We advise one another and pray together.

Now, he would put up an argument about this, but the truth is, I have gained more from him than I have yet been able to give. I have admired this man for more than half of my life. When he compliments me I usually smile and respond with, “I learned it by watching you”, and it’s the truth.

I am grateful, so grateful for this man.

How about you? Does reading this bring to mind your own band of brothers (cadre’ of sisters?) or does it leave you cold? Too many people are going through life without these kinds of relationships. Lacking these close (more than) friendships, they hermit themselves away. To the hermit type this might sound uninteresting or even frightening. Others might genuinely want some brothers of their own but find it difficult to form such close relationships and have given up on the idea. I sympathize, I really do. I can understand how easy it can be to get into either of these ruts. The thing is, remaining in a state where no one truly knows you will leave you stunted. We were created for relationship, true, gritty, naked relationship. Without it we become ingrown and, well… odd.

Ask yourself:

Who is allowed to call you on your crap?
Can anyone speak to you honestly without the threat of your anger, or worse, your cold silence?
Who knows you well enough to encourage you in the ways that really matter?
Who cares enough about you to bare your burdens and your victories as if they were their own?

And on the other hand:

Who trusts you?
Are you able to confront close friends in a humble and truly interested way?
Who are you watching over?
Whose concerns and joys do you carry with you on a regular basis?

 

It’s true that I’m blessed with these relationships, but being blessed doesn’t explain how it happened.
I set out to to find these guys and with great intentionality to form these brotherly relationships. This almost never just happens. As our friendships have formed, I have told each of them in one way or another, specifically what they mean to me and that they are allowed to speak into my life.

Becoming transparent can be frightening and incredibly difficult. But once we are truly known by our brothers and sisters, and even by our fathers and mothers, we enter into a wild and wonderful landscape. We become free to take greater risks because these close ones are there to tell us that we might just pull it off, or to inform us that we’re being plain dumb. Our victories become bigger and our burdens become lighter because they are shared with people who are ultimately always on our side.

So, I encourage you to begin looking for your own brothers. Don’t expect them to fall out of the sky, or pop up out of the carpet in your living room. It’s time to reach out. Ask the Father to give you these kinds of relationships. He will begin to point people out to you with whom you should spend some time. Not everyone will fit. It will take time, but I promise you’ll find your own cadre’. Your Father doesn’t intend for you to go it alone. He wants you in a family. What good father wouldn’t?

 

 

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