I’d have to say that right up there on my favorite things list is friendship. What a vital, rare, life-giving gift! Vital? Yup. Like the air we breathe. Rare? You bet, at least, the way I define it.

Some people call everyone they are friendly with their friends; I use the word friend very carefully, just like I use the word “love” carefully. I’m describing something very precise when I say, “friend.” I mean a person who likes me, who cares about me, who has my back, who thinks about me when I’m not there, who prays for me, who enjoys me and cheers for me, who tells me the truth, both about me and about them, who puts up with my flaws and helps me work on them. And best of all, they believe in my heart.

During one particularly difficult storm in my life where some people in the church were attacking me (I’m a pastor), one of my friends said, “I’m going to pray that your true heart is exposed for everyone to see.” Why? Because, he said, that would silence my attackers.

When you find that, trust me, fight for it. Bend over backwards and swim an ocean and do what it takes to nurture what you’ve found, because it’s pure gold. I haven’t always done that when I should, and I regret it. Other times I’ve embraced it and it’s become one of the most precious things in the universe to me.

Because friendship — true friendship, you understand — is one of my favorite things. It’s one of the ways God breathes life into us lonely folk.