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Survival Value or Value to Survival?

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”

I am a staunch admirer of C.S. Lewis and all of his impressive writing. However, I do, in a sense, disagree with this quote about friendship. Certainly human beings can survive physically life without friendship. But on an emotional or spiritual level, I think that it is impossible to survive life without friends.

I worked at a campground this past summer. It was hard and I probably was working or sleeping for at least eighteen hours of the day, if not more. I didn’t like many of the people that I was working for. I had at least half a dozen “bosses” and I felt like I had no one who appreciated me. I had the friendship of my coworkers, who felt as I did. That camaraderie was essential to my survival of the summer. But I also had the friendship of my boss and her husband. That is the relationship that allowed me to survive the summer. Without their friendship, without their love and prayers, I do not think I would have lasted more than two weeks there. Knowing that they cared both helped me to survive and gave value to my survival.

There are many other examples I could give you of how friendship does indeed have survival value. But I think I’ll leave it at that. I don’t normally disagree with Lewis but on that issue I have to.

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The Third Baseman

Yesterday my creative writing class met for the first time this semester. My professor said something which left me profoundly impacted, though this impact had nothing to do whatsoever with creative writing. As a young boy, my professor was a third baseman, though it’s hard to imagine him as such now. His father would take him to baseball games and they would always sit behind third base so that my professor could observe how the third baseman played. His father said, “It doesn’t matter what else is going on in the game, just watch the third baseman.” The point being, of course, that in order to become good at something, you should carefully observe someone who knows what they’re doing in their field.

Immediately in my mind I thought of the life of a Christian. Our purpose and our goal in life is to become like Christ. It doesn’t matter what else is going on, our only goal is to become “conformed to the image of Christ.” (Rom. 8:29) How do we go about doing this?

I’m sure that each Christian out there knows at least one person that they would consider to be a “really good Christian.” (The catch is that that person probably would shudder at the description.) Nevertheless, there are the people in our lives who we would say are doing a really good job of imitating Christ. How do we know? We watch their lives. We see the way they act, how they talk to people, how they live their lives. I’m not one of those “really good Christians” but I happen to know a few quite well. If you know me and are not just stumbling upon this blog haphazardly you can probably name at least one. To begin with, these people have high moral standards for themselves and for those around them. It can be intimidating at first until you realize that they’re not being legalistic about it or hypocritical at all. These people are also unselfish with their time, talents, and money. Watch them. Do you seem them helping people even when they are tired or sick themselves? Do you see them giving money that they really can’t afford to give? These people are the most enjoyable to talk to. When you’re with them, they’re paying attention to you like you’re the only person in the world. They make you feel valuable. And they always seem happy. These are the “professionals” and it’s good to be able to see the Christian life in action.

But let’s take this a little deeper. Who were these Christian examples watching? Was it all the “really good Christians” before them? How far back does that go? Yes, to an extent Christians ought to learn how to live a Christ-like life from other Christians. But the most important person to be watching in order to learn how to live a godly life is, in fact, Jesus Christ. If we take this parallel a little further, we watch THE Third Baseman. We study the life of Christ and see how he lived life, we observe the ways he interacted with people, the way he interacted with God, etc. We watch someone who knows how to live life. I think that Christ, being the creator of life, ought to know a thing or two about how a life should be lived.

Hebrews 12: 2 says “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” When it comes to becoming like Christ, there is no better example than Christ himself. It doesn’t matter what else is going on in the game, our lives, if you will. (Hebrews 12:1 urges us to put aside every weight and sin that brings us down.) What matters is that we keep our eyes on Jesus. For one thing, he’ll never leave us. And for another, he knows exactly how our lives should be lived if we want to make the most of them.

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The Hole

There’s a hole

Trying to swallow you whole,

Getting bigger each night

That you lie awake

In the dark

Though you try to fight

With your fears

And your pain

And your tears.

There’s a hole, or a pit

That wants you to die,

That wants you to quit,

To give up, to sink 

Into that hole called

Depression.

But if you let yourself sink,

Into that hole

That’s been trying to take you

For ages,

You fail

And I fail;

We fail.

But grab hold of me

I’ll never let go.

You’re worth much to me:

I won’t let you fall.

When you’re weak,

I’ll be strong.

So take my hand

And climb out of the pit.