What does a friend give? What does friend Jesus give? What do a spouse, parent, or minister give to spouses, children, or parishioners as friends?
It depends on the need of the moment, doesn't it?
Rev. Maclean said, in Norman Maclean's wonderful book A River Runs Through It , "Each one of us ... will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? ... And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them--we can love completely without complete understanding."
How can we love our friends when we don't know what is needed? How can we be loved by friend Jesus when we, as we often do, hide what is needed from Him?
The following post about Winnie the Pooh by my friend and wife Calder helps answer that question.
It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn't heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore's stick house. Inside the house was Eeyore.
"Hello Eeyore," said Pooh.
"Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet " said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice
"We just thought we'd check in on you," said Piglet, "because we hadn't heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay."
Eeyore was silent for a moment. "Am I okay?" he asked, eventually. "Well, I don't know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That's what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All.
Which is why I haven't bothered you. Because you wouldn't want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now."
Pooh looked and Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.
Eeyore looked at them in surprise. "What are you doing?"
"We're sitting here with you," said Pooh, "because we are your friends. And true friends don't care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are."
"Oh," said Eeyore. "Oh." And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.
Because Pooh and Piglet were There.
No more; no less. (A.A.Milne, E.H.Shepard)
Ever feel like Eeyore? Sad, alone, and not much fun to be around? Ever had a friend who seemed to feel that way, who prompted the question, "What, Lord, if anything, is needed? " I felt that way often during the early days of recovery from alcoholism. I feel that way still when "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" (Shakespeare) take the breath away. And I wonder to myself ... we wonder to ourselves, "What, Lord, if anything, is needed?"
There are times, of course, when conversation or touch or prayer or a call can lift us up, can restore our joy. There may be times when some, dramatic, big, grand geste is needed. But more often than not, as I have learned from my best friend, Pooh and Piglet got it right. They were just there, "No more; no less." They knew how to "...love completely without complete understanding."
The best Friend, the friend who "...is closer than your own family" (Prov 18:24, CEV), friend Jesus says to the Eeyore in us all, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (Jn 14:18).
Presence is what's most often needed, just being there, even, across miles and miles, sending belovedness by our presence to the friend who feels sad, and alone, and not much fun to be around. It's what Jesus would do. It's what Jesus does, with the reassurance that "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb 13:5).
He is, simply, present. No more; no less. And we are called to emulate that presence as friends.