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Close Friendships: Annuals or Perennials?

May 24, 2021

I recently read the following short story from a weekly newsletter from my real estate agent and friend, Joe Karcie, in Prescott, Arizona. He calls the newsletter Monday Morning Coffee. The short article was entitled, Which Bouquet Do You Prefer? Please read it. You will like it. 

“Whether or not you have a green thumb, you probably know that gardens may contain either annual or perennial flower varieties. Annuals are fun to grow for several reasons: 1) they sprout quickly from seeds, 2) they flower the first year, and 3) their colors can be brilliant and most pleasing. They are also less hardy and die out at the first sign of frost. Each spring, new seeds or new plants must be planted.

Perennials are another story. Growing from seeds, they take longer to sprout and rarely flower the first year. Their colors are more subtle hues, and they require more attention in the early stages. They must be cut back in the winter and covered with mulch and may need fertilizer in the spring. They also return year after year, returning with more robust roots, more incredible beauty, and abundant growth. With time, they require less and less attention yet continue to prosper. No matter how cold the winter, they always return with renewed vigor.

Friendships and business relationships are a lot like flowers and may also be either annual or perennial. They may be quick to bloom and most enjoyable to experience yet fade quickly at the first hint of trouble.

Others grow more gradually through trust-building and respect. They may not dazzle the senses or leave us breathless, yet they are consistent, trusting, and produce a warm glow that hardly fades when tested by adversity. These relationships grow over time and create an abundance of lasting beauty.

In business, as in personal relationships, the best things in life come with time and caring. When planning your life's garden this spring, why not devote your attention to the perennials? With an added touch of patience, you can look forward to the sweet fragrances to come.”

The best thing about this short story is that it is accurate, and it is applicable. You can start nurturing those perennials today and right away. I remember when I was pastoring my church. When the offering time came in the church, I approached the offering in a way that I “raised friends, not just funds.”

Life is like a train of friendships. People get on and off. We will have friends with us for five minutes, for five years, or others for fifty years. There will be times in life when people get on and off our train. It may or may not be something we did. But no matter what, please remember that friendships in life are essential. We don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change.

People are generally looking for two things in friendships: happiness and a sense of fulfillment. What experts have learned about life is that happiness is the outcome of meaningful friendships with people. People don’t remember what we say or even what we do. They remember how they feel when they are around us. They catch our vibe.

There are four kinds of developing friendships: 

1. Acquaintance friendships. 

2. Casual friendships. 

3.  Close relationships. 

4. Intimate relationships. 

When I say intimate friendship, I am not speaking about a sexual relationship. I am talking about what the Bible calls “A friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Here’s the verse from the scripture. “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24. Another verse says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17. In other words, there are friends, male or female, that are not just fair-weather friends. When problems come, intimate friends run to you, not from you. 

Jesus knew the value of close and intimate friendships. In John 15:15, Jesus said to His disciples: "I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father." Marriage is not just a relationship; it is also an intimate friendship. "This is my beloved, and this is my friend." Song of Songs 5:16b   

But friendships don’t work for people unless people work at friendships. That means both people need to invest in the friendship. After the initial investments, an acquaintance type of friendship may turn into a casual friendship. Next, a casual friendship may turn into a close friendship. And perhaps that close friendship will turn into an intimate friendship. Cultivate those relationships, whether it be in your career, your marriage, or your personal life. The best vitamin for friendship is “B-1.”

Your friendship train will have all four developing friendship categories getting on and off it. What most people are looking for are ‘friends that stick closer than a brother’ friendships. They want perennials, not just annuals. Let me say it this way. Friends come and go like waves on the ocean, but the true, intimate friends stay, like an octopus on your face.

Where do you go from here? It’s spring. Get to work and cultivate the perennials and plant a few annuals. There now, wasn’t that refreshing?

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com