When I was in the third grade, I had a best friend at church.
We ran and played together. Not inside the church, of course. Back then, we had no children’s church. No, we had to sit and be quiet, but the service wasn’t entirely boring. We had those church bulletins, which were wonderful material for paper airplanes. On the amen of the closing prayer, we calmly hustled up the aisle and were out the door running, letting our airplanes soar.
How empty that time would have been if I had been alone, climbing steps and jumping by myself. When my plane sailed fifty yards, my accomplishment would’ve meant nothing.
No wonder, then, when kids don’t have a real friend, they create an imaginary friend.
In high school, my best friend lived across the alley.
We walked home from school together and took turns kicking a can down the street. With just the right angle and force, the can sometimes stood on end. So we took turns to see who could get the higher number. We studied together and compared grades, each encouraging the other to excel. Physically, I was a little faster, but he was a little stronger. We tied a rope swing in front of his house and took turns grabbing the bar with our hands, seeing how far we could swing out from the porch.
By myself, neither school work nor play would’ve been any fun.
Friendship requires being together.
When my granddaughter was three, we played tickles, peek-a-boo, and hide-and-seek. We bounced on the bed. One day, she slipped off the side of the bed and crouched with her hands and knees on the floor. Why was she giggling? I could still see the top of her head and her blonde curly hair, but because she couldn’t see me, she thought she was hidden from my sight.
I need to avoid the misconception that because I can’t see God, he can’t see me. I keep reminding myself that we’re together all the time. He sees every time I stand up or sit down. He even knows my thoughts (Psalm 139:2). So the friends I can see can never be as close as God, whom I can’t see.
Why is my awareness of God so important? If I know he is with me and how much he loves me, I know he’s the best friend I could ever have. Besides that, no matter the circumstances, I never have to fear.
With my best friend with me all the time, life is a lot more fun.
As I walk through the most trying times of my life, a dark valley of the shadow of death, I still don’t have to fear, because you’re at my side. Like a shepherd who protects his lambs, your rod and your staff keep me safe. — Psalm 23:4 (Frank Ball paraphrase)