But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17)
I have only transcribed one book from Hebrew into English, and it was the Book of Ruth. If you are going to sit with the ancient language of Hebrew, I recommend sitting with it in the book of Ruth. It’s a beautiful story of family and friendship, of heartache and perseverance, of sacrifice and my favorite Hebrew word, Hesed, which means, “steadfast faithfulness.”
The thing I love most about the summer, is that it provides a season for family and old friends to re-unite. This summer I spent a week with my cousin, whom I haven’t seen in three years and my oldest friend, whom I hadn’t seen in over five. Being with them, it was like not an hour had past, since we had last been together. There is something so enriching and humbling about the people who have known you forever and still love you today! They love you just the way you are. They are like plants with deep roots. They are planted deep in your soul and cannot be easily pulled. They provide steadfast faithfulness.
Today is the first day of school for many of our kids and I know that the biggest concern isn’t what they will be learning in science class, but rather, who they will sit with at the lunch table, Who will be their friend? True friends are hard to find. Some of our children will start the year reading E.B. White’s, Charlotte’s Web, where they will read the conversation between Wilbur and Charlotte: “Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
There is an old hymn called, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” When I think about Jesus and his friends I remember his vulnerability and grief when Lazarus died. I remember that he did the most human thing: he wept. My parents are starting to lose their friends. Yesterday we learned that one of my mom’s oldest friends, and my first piano teacher passed away. She was in a word: a gem. It seems like every time I call home, there is another friend with a diagnosis, or has passed away. As I watch my parents accept this stage of life, I see how deep and meaningful these friendships were. I see that there was steadfast faithfulness in these friends who came to the hospital, kept a T-time, walked every Tuesday, met for Bible study, sent a card. These friends are the ones who gave life to life. True friends are hard to find.
Henri Nouwen wrote on friendship:
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
The gift of friendship is a gift from God. It’s rare and real. It’s steadfast faithfulness.
One final quote to sum it up: